The start of the IAAF World Championships is now just 10 days away, and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) is left still scrambling for funds. They have requested $116,000 from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture toward the purchase of airline tickets and expenses for the nine team members and team officials, but the ministry is only pledging $25,000, citing that funds are unavailable.
According to reports, a Cabinet of The Bahamas meeting was scheduled for late Sunday evening in which the money shortfall matter was said to be on the table. Up to yesterday evening, BAAA President Drumeco Archer said that they still had not received any additional funds. He said that he is unaware of what transpired in the Cabinet meeting, and with ticket prices rising everyday and no additional funds as yet, it’s not looking too promising for Team Bahamas.
Previously, Minister Lanisha Rolle said that track and field already receives the lion’s share of funds designated for sports, and that they have to be mindful of the financial needs and requests of other sporting federations, as well.
“When you look at track and field, you have to look at it in the proper perspective. This sport attracts thousands of athletes in any one given year,” said Archer last night. “Let me be very clear. If member federations are not receiving proper funding, they have my 100 percent support to receive additional funding because that’s really the only way that we could grow sporting programs. We all need funding. As for track and field, we want to see the sport develop into a viable industry. We believe that this country has the unique opportunity over many jurisdictions in the world to excel worldwide in track and field, but that could only be done with proper funding behind it. We are once again appealing to the Government of The Bahamas to assist us wholeheartedly in getting this entire team to Doha.”
The 17th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships is set for September 27 to October 6, at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Qualifying to compete for The Bahamas are Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m), Steven Gardiner in the men’s 200 and 400m, Tynia Gaither in the women’s 100 and 200m, Anthonique Strachan in the women’s 200m, Pedrya Seymour in the women’s 100m hurdles, Alonzo Russell in the men’s 400m, Latario and Lathone Collie-Minns in the men’s triple jump, Donald Thomas in the men’s high jump and Samson Colebrook in the men’s 100m. Colebrook will not travel, opting to focus on his senior year at Purdue University and next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Miller-Uibo has opted to compete in the 400m as opposed to the 200m, and both she and Gardiner are favorites for medals in their respective events. They could realistically both win gold in the 400m events, thereby making The Bahamas just the second nation ever to sweep the top spots in the men’s and women’s 400m at the world championships.
The Head Coach of the team is Fritz Grant and the assistants are Bernard Rolle and Ronald Cartwright. Sharon Gardiner is the team manager and the assistant is Dionne Britton. The medical staff consists of Dr. Keir Miller and physiotherapist Cordero Bonamy. The other delegates are BAAA President Archer and BAAA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mabelene Miller.
With the country in recovery mode in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, Archer said that the time is not right to appeal to Corporate Bahamas for funds.
“If Corporate Bahamas is able to contribute willingly to the federation, then we will accept it, this is something that we must tackle collectively. If the country wants Team Bahamas to go to Doha, then collectively I believe that we must do our best to ensure that our athletes get there,” said Archer. “Money comes from the Treasury to the benefit of specific projects that we spearhead, and the world championships is one of those. There has been a long tradition of the government underwriting that cost – it’s never been a consideration. In 2015, we received $150,000 and in 2017, we received $140,000. This is no different than what our expectations are now.”
Archer said that they submitted a budget to the ministry from February 1 of this year, and up until a week ago, there was no indication from the ministry that the amount budgeted for wouldn’t be realized. Now, he said, they are left scrambling for funds at the “last hour”. Archer noted that individuals such as Miller-Uibo and Gardiner might choose to fund their own way to Doha in hopes of being reimbursed later, but he added that the BAAA refuses to send a team that can only feature some of the athletes because all of the athletes qualified for the meet and deserve to be there. He said they will only go in solidarity.
On the note of solidarity, it is being reported that the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) has offered to purchase tickets for Team Bahamas through solidarity funds issued to the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), but according to reports from a BOC official, those funds have been exhausted and there is nothing available.
There is also an issue arising that Minister Rolle is seeking to take a nine-member delegation from the ministry to the world championships. Archer said the public should be concerned about where priorities lie, adding that the cost to send a nine-member delegation from the ministry to the world championships would exceed the $25,000 given to the actual team.
The BAAA chief said that his obligation is to the athletes first and foremost and he has to look out for their best interest. He remains hopeful that the ministry would honor its initial commitment and provide the funds necessary to send Team Bahamas to the world championships.
With the exception of the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, The Bahamas has won at least one medal at each of the world’s biggest athletic meets, outside of the Olympics, since 1993 in Stuttgart, Germany.