Once again, the president of the biggest and most powerful athletics body in the world is here in The Bahamas, and once again, it is to mark the occurrence of an historic undertaking in that sport.
The North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) headquarters, of which Bahamian Mike Sands will preside over, will be officially opened today at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium under the distinguished patronage of World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe and outgoing NACAC president Victor Lopez of Puerto Rico.
Coe, Lopez, elected officials in the NACAC body, and other out-of-town guests arrived in The Bahamas on Sunday.
During a walk-through of the old Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium yesterday evening, Coe met with athletes and coaches, expressed gratitude to them for their choice of engagement in athletics, and shared a message of inclusion and opportunity as it relates to athletics. He said that the field of athletics is one of the most difficult of all sporting disciplines to experience global success in, but with shining tangible examples like Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and through hard work, dedication and discipline, significant milestones are achievable.
Hundreds of young athletes, from various track and field clubs, worked out at the stadium yesterday.
“It is so comforting as the president of an international sport just to go somewhere and see the sport that you love and trained in have such a local passion,” said Lord Coe, a former athlete himself. “To see the stadium full of athletes of all ages, and to know that there is such talent coming through, is a wonderful thing. Our challenge is to make sure we keep them interested and keep the talent developing through the BAAA (Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations) and with Mike Sands helping secure the futures of many of our athletes through NACAC, we’re in great shape.”
Sands made history when he became the first Bahamian to be elected as NACAC president. He achieved that milestone during the body’s congress meeting and election of officers in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico last July, defeating outgoing executive Alain Jean Pierre of Haiti, 14-12, in the final round of voting.
Coe said that he has no doubt that under Sands, the body will reach new heights and new developments will come forth.
“Mike and I have known each other many years. We were on the international circuit as athletes together and it’s great that a friendship that started in competition has now been cemented in our roles as administrators. I am delighted that Mike is the NACAC President. We see the world in the same way, we see athletics in the same way and we will work very closely together,” said Coe.
Sands said that the work has already begun, starting with meetings during the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year, and continuing straight into two sessions here in Nassau, The Bahamas, yesterday. He said that a number of items are on the table.
“I am very ecstatic. This is something that I have longed for and I am very happy that the membership reposed their confidence in me,” said Sands. “I am looking forward to the support of the council members and the individual federations. We had a very good day. The meetings were interactive, and we have some plans that we will be sharing later on to ensure that our region stays the number one region in terms of performances. That’s my goal,” he added.
Sands said that the presence of the World Athletics president to officially open the office and witness the grand occasion speaks wonders to the reach of athletics in this region worldwide and the significance of the sport in this region to the world.
“I am honored that his schedule permitted him to come and be a part of this historic event that is taking place here in The Bahamas,” said Sands. “It is a monumental occasion, and I’m just flattered and honored to have him here.”
As for his message to the young athletes yesterday, Coe said that he just wanted to thank them for choosing track and field and he wishes them the ultimate success in the sport.
“We should never forget that this sport is a really strong sport and particularly in this part of the world, it has such a massive emotional appeal to all sorts of people. My message to the kids was simply ‘thank you’. Thank you for choosing athletics, thank you for dedicating your evenings to our sport and thank you to the coaches,” said Coe. “My advice to them was to listen to their coaches. We can’t just see sport as a microcosm. It’s something that can give social skills and comfort to young people, and particularly to help them make the right decisions in their lives which is what we really want for them, and to understand that they have chosen the toughest sport on the planet. It is tougher to get a medal at the world championships in track and field than it is in any other sport because so many people do what we do. It’s a truly global sport.”
The NACAC headquarters will be officially opened at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium today.
Following his retirement from sprinting in 1981, Sands moved into the administrative sphere of the sport. He started out as public relations officer for the former Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association, now Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations, and eventually ascended to the position of BAAA President where he served two consecutive terms. Sands also served as a vice president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) and as a vice president of NACAC.
Of the six regional area associations of the World Athletics, NACAC is arguably the most prolific athletic community, usually generating the largest medal count at both the world championships and the Olympic Games. Sands would directly oversee athletics in the North American, Central American and Caribbean region, encompassing large countries and athletic giants such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, just to name a few. Sands would also secure tremendous influence for The Bahamas at the regional and international levels.