By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
LONDON, England — Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) said the Bahamas will definitely be ready to host the world when the International Amateur Athletic Federation stages the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships in the new Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium in May, 2014.
At a press conference to talk about the success of the athletic competition at the 2012 Olympic Games, IAAF president Lamine Diack said the two-day competition will “bring together the world’s best athletes,” in a schedule that includes the 4x100 and 4x400-meter races as well as the 4x200, 4x800 and 4x1,500 relays. The athletes will be competing for $1.4 million in prize money.
Diack said the IAAF selected the Bahamas based on the success of the “Golden Girls” in the women’s 4 x 400 metre relay and the men’s 4 x 400 relay team of Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon ‘Fearless’ Miller, who stunned the United States of America for the first gold medal at the Olympics. It was also the only medal won by the Bahamas at these games that ended on Sunday.
The men’s 4 x 400 relay usually brings the curtains down on the games or championships, but like they did in Beijing, China at the 2008 Olympiad, there was a change in schedule to accommodate the men’s 4 x 100 relay. On the closing night of athletics on Saturday, Usain Bolt anchored the Jamaican team to a world record over arch-rival United States.
The US lost out in both the men’s relay, but they made up for it on the women’s side by winning both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 over Jamaica.
In the 4 x 100, Carmelita Jeter anchored the team to a world record breaking performance. The women’s 4 x 4 was anchored by Sanya Richards-Ross.
While the Bahamas has always been a force to reckon with in the relays, countries have been eager to come to the Bahamas to compete in the annual Carifta Games, which is expected to be a prelude to the World Relay Championships when it is held in the new stadium over the Easter holiday weekend.
Sands, who delivered a guaranteed letter from the Bahamas Government of their acceptance of hosting the initial World Relays 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 goes to elections in November, said they had to already get the ball rolling in order to submit their plans to the IAAF, but 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 on his return home from the Olympics.
“We had to present a budget to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (Bahamas Government) and to the IAAF. It was a very tedious process. You might remember that they came to town and did a site inspection, had a two-day meeting and satisfied themselves that we did what we had to do,” Sands said. “Since I was here, I had two meetings with the IAAF, including the president and the general secretary, to present the letter of acceptance from the Bahamas Government.
“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.”
With 204 registered member federations, Sands said it would be nice if at least half of them can make it to the Bahamas because it will be a tremendous boost to our main industry of tourism.
“Part of the incentives is that the World Relays will also serve as qualifiers for the World Championships and 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.”
The only hiccup is if and when the new stadium will be ready for occupancy.
Since it’s official opening in February 25, the stadium has not been used because of the cosmetic work that is still ongoing on the outside. There was also an issue with the certification of the IAAF and FIFA, the governing body for track and field and soccer respectively, the primary users for 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.
“This has been a great day. This has been one amazing day. I had to pinch myself. I cannot believe this. For us to just be awarded the World Relays just a few hours ago and now we just won the gold. Oh my goodness, I’m so proud to be a Bahamian. I’m overwhelmed. You making me start crying. I am so proud. I can’t wait for us to host this event.”
In between all of that excitement, Davis-Thompson presented her second share of flowers to the winners of the women’s 4 x 100 metre relay, inclusive of world record breaking United States of America, silver medallist Jamaica and bronze medallist Trinidad & Tobago. It was only in 2000 in Sydney, Australia that 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 US and Jamaica in the 4 x 100 relay.