Protected window announced for nationals

In addition to leaving its schedule of events partially open and active for 2020, World Athletics (WA) is also now recommending a weekend for national championships of its various member bodies.

The weekend of August 8-9, 2020, has been set aside as a protected window for national athletic championships. In the face of COVID-19, they’re still looking at fitting a compacted schedule into their plans for the remainder of the year, and the weekend of August 8-9 is open as one with little to no athletic activity worldwide, as planned by WA.

Despite being guided by their global governing body, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) is being cautious in its decision making, preferring to wait out the pandemic before settling on any particular date. The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc around the globe, with about 1.9 million confirmed cases and over 100,000 deaths. There were 49 cases and eight deaths in The Bahamas up to press time.

“The BAAA has no reservation in holding nationals August 8-9 as recommended by World Athletics,” said BAAA President Drumeco Archer yesterday. “Obviously, we are subject to the orders of our governing body but what transpires in the summer hinges on the containment of this deadly virus. At this point, we are more concerned about protecting and saving lives rather than hosting nationals. If it is possible for us to stage our nationals on that date, we should all celebrate because we want track and field to flourish in The Bahamas; but for us, it’s certainly not an independent decision that will be taken. It will be consultative in the context of getting the green light from the Government of The Bahamas in making the facilities available to us. Also, we would have to look at the containment of the virus. We remain hopeful that this virus will be abated between now and then.”

The protected weekend of August 8-9 has been established by WA’s newly created Global Calendar Unit. No Diamond League Meets or World Athletics Continental Tour meetings are scheduled for that weekend, according to the revised calendar, allowing national federations to stage their championships without clashing with any global meetings.

“None of us can predict the future in these unprecedented times, but we do know that different countries are at different stages of managing this pandemic, so we are trying to give a structure to our athletes and member federations, so they can begin to plan for the year ahead,” said WA President Lord Sebastian Coe. “If it is at all possible, we will schedule a belated outdoor season from August to October to help our athletes to figure out where they stand after the disruption of this year.”

Already, WA announced the suspension of the Olympic qualifying period until December 1, 2020, meaning that athletes will not be able to achieve qualifying standards or enhance world ranking positions for the Tokyo Olympic Games until that date. The Olympics are now scheduled for July 23 to August 8, 2021.

It is the intention of WA to arrange an international competition schedule to assist athletes with preparation and qualifying efforts for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.

“We are hopeful that this can begin with national championships in many northern hemisphere countries in early August, as travel restrictions across country borders will not impact these events. This will be followed by what we hope will be a solid international season, but, of course, we are dependent on the global response to the pandemic,” said Coe. “Nevertheless, we think it’s better to offer our stakeholders some hope of a return to normality later this year.”

Archer said one of their concerns is the availability of Bahamian athletes for August nationals and  whether or not they would have had an opportunity to compete in order to be ready for the nationals.

“There is certainly a lot to consider,” he said. “It would be premature and difficult to say what would happen between now and then.”

Already, the first three Diamond League meets this season have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. An announcement is expected to be made near the end of the month on the schedule of activities for the 2020 season.

Protected windows for 2021 national championships, according to WA, are June 5 and 6 and June 26 and 27, 2021, just prior to the end of the new qualifying period for the Tokyo Olympics.

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