The athletics family, globally, is holding firm to the belief that at least some of the season could be salvaged in the face of the increasingly growing COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has now infected almost 1.2 million people around the world, and more than 68,000 have died up to press time last night, including five here in The Bahamas.
President of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC), Bahamian Mike Sands, said in a communication that optimism remains strong – following a weekly meeting with the upper echelon of World Athletics (WA). WA, in particular, is trying to salvage some of the Diamond League Meets and World Athletic Tour competitions this year. Already, the first three Diamond League Meets have been canceled.
“Be assured that the entire leadership of our organization empathizes with all of our members whose countries have been infected with COVID-19,” said Sands. “All reports indicate that COVID-19 is a dreaded virus and that care must be taken to avoid its spread. We, therefore, urge you to adhere to all health protocols and advisories put in place by your respective governments and health authorities. We are continuing to examine our options regarding a revised calendar.”
So far, there has been no word regarding the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) National Championships set for late June. The NACAC executive board, by way of WA, is recommending a postponement of all national championships to the weekend of August 8-9, should a state of normalcy return to the global environment. Additionally, Sands said they remain hopeful of staging the CARIFTA Games – the biggest and most popular junior athletics championships in this region – in either July or August, but added that it all depends on the status of the fight against COVID-19.
According to Sands, a number of items were discussed and finalized in the interactive meeting, such as all international federations agreeing on the new dates for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics; the world indoors that had been moved from 2020 to 2021 will still be held in Nanjing, China; the world outdoors officially moved to 2022; and WA has launched “Athletics @”, designed to sustain interest in the sport.
Sands said that WA President Lord Sebastian Coe has noted that the period 2021 through to 2024 would allow for a tremendous amount of athletics to be shown on international television, which would be a boost for the sport, and reignite interest in athletics, globally.
“We are requesting our member federations to kindly respond to our several communications early, so that we can be more effective in our administration and operations,” said Sands. “Our office has requested information aimed at updating the NACAC directory. We encourage our member federations to continue to be in touch with all of their athletes to know what is happening with them in respect of their health status. We must sustain their interest in our sport and be among those who engender hope and confidence in the face of adversity, such as currently exists.”
A number of athletes globally, junior and senior, have already shut down their seasons, while others have reduced training regimens as a result of the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, there is no telling what level of competition will exist if and when the athletics season resumes.