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Losing IAAF World Relays altered The Bahamas’ global athletics status

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays – scheduled for this weekend, May 11-12, in Yokohama, Japan – is a stinging reminder of this government’s huge blunder in allowing one of the mega global sports events to get away from us.

We were connected in a special way to one of the world’s highly-noted international sports organizations, the IAAF. Through the sports minister in the previous central administration, Dr. Daniel Johnson, inroads were made toward the IAAF signing off for the world relays to be the domain of The Bahamas.

Governance is ongoing. It was a terrible decision made by the present Free National Movement (FNM) government to pull the plug on the hosting of the world relays. The FNM did not recognize, or lacked the sports wherewithal, to accept the significance of what Dr. Johnson did, on behalf of the then Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government and the people of The Bahamas.

He successfully, with associates, negotiated for The Bahamas to host at least two of the first three IAAF World Relays. That was a great development. Serious talks were ongoing regarding The Bahamas becoming the home base for the world relays. In investigating the possibility of such, I was informed that designating one country the rights to host one of its platform events was not something that the IAAF had ever done. However, the relationship between the IAAF and The Bahamas, with the world relays as the main ingredient, had become quite strong.

An exception to the rule was about to take place.

I feel strongly that the IAAF World Relays event was going to belong to The Bahamas, with adjusted terms that would have been palatable to all and sundry.

As it turned out, however, the PLP lost the general elections to the FNM in May of 2017. Initially, with Michael Pintard as the new sports minister, it appeared that there would be continuity of the hosting of the world relays. However, seemingly in midstream, there was a government mindset shift and the announcement came that the $5 million cost to host the world relays of 2019 was too much.

Just like that, the government turned its back on a prized international sports extravaganza.

So, fast forward to the present, and for the first time in its relatively short history, the IAAF World Relays will take place someplace other than The Bahamas. The prestige that goes along with hosting such a competition, we lost. We did away with a product that took The Bahamas to the world, as millions formed the global audience for the world relays.

We disconnected from the hierarchy of the IAAF. IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe was becoming a regular visitor to these parts. Indeed, the sports host nation status of The Bahamas was rising, considerably.

Hosting of the world relays, combined with the performances of our elite track and field athletes, had heightened The Bahamas’ global athletics reputation. Now, we have only the competition to depend upon for enhancement of The Bahamas’ sports brand. We won medals during the first three world relays; two men’s 1600 meters (m) silver medals and a mixed 1600m gold medal.

We won’t be defending the mixed relay crown this year. That’s deflating. Hopefully the medal string will continue through the efforts of the men’s 1600m squad or the men’s 4×200 team, or both.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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