Archer optimistic season will go on uninterrupted

It’s nearing December and the COVID-19 situation is still rampant in the region, placing the early part of the 2021 sports calendar in jeopardy.

Here, in The Bahamas, a proclamation has been signed for a new period of a state of public emergency, and the Government of The Bahamas has already given notice of an intention to extend the state of emergency until December 28. In Barbados, the state of emergency has been extended to March 2021.

Other countries in the region are experiencing similar measures as it relates to the control of the novel coronavirus that has been wreaking havoc and hindering sports since March.

It forced the cancellation of the CARIFTA Games, and now, with next year’s version just five months away, one has to wonder what the status of next year’s event will be. The North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) is remaining committed to the event, for now. It is set for April 3-5, in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Despite the current state of affairs in The Bahamas, the track and field season is about to get underway. Receiving permission from the Competent Authority (CA) through the Ministry of Health, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Odd Distance Track and Field Meet is set for Saturday December 19, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. A special request was made by the BAAA for the staging of the odd distance meet and permission was granted.

According to BAAA President Drumeco Archer, a number of safety measures and social distancing protocols will be in place.

“We’re looking forward to it. This is our first opportunity to demonstrate that we could make this happen,” said Archer. “I’m pleased to say that we have not had a single outbreak of COVID-19 at any of our training sessions and that our athletes are continuing to prepare for the season ahead. Of course, no one knows what next year will bring in terms of further outbreaks in the region but the plan is to continue to prepare with the promise of there being a season. The reality is, we are learning how to survive with COVID-19 and it isn’t any different in track and field. On December 19, our goal is to effectively deliver a meet and show that we could make this happen.”

For this first meet of the season, the plan is to stage a spectator-free event. Also, with it being held in the spacious national stadium, Archer said that will give them more than enough leverage to successfully utilize their social distancing measures.

“Going forward, we will have to apply for every meet that is on the calendar but we are confident that we will be able to successfully stage this meet,” he said. “The huge facility makes it easier to social distance and stage this event without any great risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. There will be minimal interaction as best as possible.”

Archer said he is of the view that The Bahamas may be the first in the region to restart athletics for the new season. A number of meets are planned locally. Regionally and internationally for The Bahamas, CARIFTA, the World Athletics (WA) World Indoor Track and Field Championships, the world relays and the Olympic Games are some of the major meets planned. Archer remains optimistic that the season will go on uninterrupted.

“As it relates to CARIFTA, we’re assured from competition personnel that the logistics are in place and that the athletes will be competing in a safe and secured COVID-free environment. We must, at any cost, create opportunities for our athletes to compete. We have to continue to develop the sport – that’s our mandate. Nothing changes in our view as far as CARIFTA is concerned.”

Be that as it may, the Competent Authority, on the advice of health officials, determines the state of affairs in the country, particularly the opening of gyms and training venues and group sessions as it relates to athletics. The BAAA must receive permission from the Competent Authority through the Ministry of Health on the staging of meets for the remainder of the season.

“Given the nature, size and scale of this particular meet on December 19 (Odd Distance Meet), I don’t foresee any problems,” said Archer. “I don’t know what other countries are doing but I could say that here, in The Bahamas, we are moving forward with the 2020-2021 season for track and field. Various countries are experiencing different waves of the coronavirus. Here, in The Bahamas, we believe that our numbers are on the decline and we are moving forward. Our challenge is to ensure that our athletes are training and competing in a safe environment and that is what we are doing.”

The current state of emergency in the country ends today, and last week, a resolution was tabled in the House of Assembly to extend the state of emergency until December 28.

Also on December 19, the Neymour Athletics Christmas Odd Distance Meet is planned for the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama, but there is no word, as yet, on whether or not that event will take place.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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