Bahamas to host inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships

LONDON, England, Wednesday August 15, 2012 — Some of the world’s top athletes will converge in the Bahamas when the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) stages the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships in the new Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium in May 2014.

IAAF president Lamine Diack said the two-day competition will “bring together the world’s best athletes” in a schedule that includes the 4×100 and 4×400-metre races as well as the 4×200, 4×800 and 4×1500 relays. The athletes will be competing for $1.4 million in prize money.

Speaking at a press conference following the athletic competitions at the London 2012 Olympics, Diack said the IAAF selected the Bahamas based on the past success of the country’s famous “Golden Girls” in the women’s relays, as well as the men’s 4 x 400 relay team of Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon ‘Fearless’ Miller, who stormed to victory for the gold medal at the recently concluded Games.

While the Bahamas has long been a force to be reckoned with in the relays, countries have also been eager to compete in the Bahamas at the Carifta Games, which is expected to be a prelude to the World Relay Championships when it is held in the new stadium next Easter.

President of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Michael Sands, who delivered a guaranteed letter of acceptance from the Bahamas Government to the IAAF, said they are looking forward to putting on a show that the world has never seen because there is no comparison with this being the first relay championships to be held.

“Our vision, from the beginning, is what do we do with this new facility and how do we promote the sport of track and field in the Bahamas at the same time and continue to grow the sport of track and field in the Bahamas,” Sands said. “The only way to do that is to ensure the stadium does not become a white elephant and to create some incentive for our athletes.

“So being able to secure an event of the IAAF World Series, in this instance the World Relay Championships, the IAAF is fully behind it because it’s their event. We are only hosting it. But we are very, very fortunate that they have selected us as the inaugural host of the initial World Relay Championships. It’s a prestigious event for us.”

Sands, who will be seeking another four-year term in office when the BAAA holds elections in November, said a local steering committee, similar to the ones assembled for the hosting of Carifta and the Central American and Caribbean Championships, will be announced shortly.

“But there is a lot of work ahead of us. Like what they’ve done in Great Britain, when we have Carifta coming up in Easter and the Relay Championships in 2014, we are going to need a whole lot of volunteers to make it happen and all hands on deck because the first one has to be a lasting impression, even though they have committed to giving it to us two years in a row. We have to make a showing of it to make it happen.”

Sands added that it would be nice if at least half of the 204 registered member federations could make it to the Bahamas because it would be a tremendous boost to the country’s mainstay tourism industry.

“Part of the incentives is that the World Relays will also serve as qualifiers for the World Championships as well as the Olympic Games, so we expect that we will have participation from a great number of our member federations through the IAAF,” Sands said. “So this is bigger than the BAAA. Thus is bigger than Nassau. This is the IAAF and they have expressed their confidence in us and are satisfied that we are capable to do it.”

It is not yet known when the new stadium will be ready for occupancy. Since its official opening in February, it has not been used due to cosmetic work that is still ongoing on the outside. There was also an issue with the certification of the IAAF and FIFA, the governing bodies for track and field and soccer respectively, the primary users of the facility.

While in London, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Daniel Johnson assured the IAAF that the stadium will be ready and Sands said he’s confident that “whatever is wrong with it, will be corrected because we have Carifta in Easter and that’s only about six months away, so the track has to be ready in time for that.”

“Golden Girl” Pauline Davis-Thompson, now a member of the IAAF Council, said she’s very proud of this latest achievement for the Bahamas.

“With me being in the council helps because I understand the dynamics and I am able to convince my collegiate as to why the Bahamas is the best place to host the relays,” she said. “I’m just so happy that our government was able to send the letter of confirmation and we were able to be the first to host the IAAF World Relays in 2014 and 2015.”

In 2000 in Sydney, Australia, Davis-Thompson stood on the podium with Sevatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie and alternate Eldece Clarke to receive their gold medal for their triumph over the United States and Jamaica in the 4 x 100 relay. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)