By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
After the promise by the Government of the Bahamas to have the two Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadiums ready in time for the Carifta Games, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations president Mike Sands said he’s pleased with the progress he has seen so far.
Staff from the Beynon Sports Surfaces out of Hunt Valley, Maryland, are currently in town resurfacing the track at the old TAR stadium. Supervisor Rudy Ybarbo said once they are completed by February 10, they intend to work on the new TAR Stadium in an effort to correct some of the mistakes that have hindered the progress of having it certified by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF).
“I’m pleased with the initiative that the government is taking to renovate the facilities, including the old Thomas A Robinson Track, which is intended to be used as a warm-up facility for the Carifta Games, which makes it an historic one,” Sands said.
“Other than Jamaica, we will be the only other country in the Caribbean that will have a warm-up track that is close to the main facility.
“So I’m so pleased that the government has given their guarantee to have the two facilities ready for us by February. All I can say is that they have given the guarantee and the assurance that they will be ready for Carifta, so all we are focusing on is putting on a track meet that will be in the new facility with the old facility being used as a warm-up track.”
The BAAA is preparing to host the biggest junior regional meet March 29 to April 1. The games, which was originally started by Austin Sealy in 1972, was first hosted in the Bahamas in 1976. Since then, the Bahamas hosted the event in 1978, 1981, 1984, 1992 and finally in 2002.
The Bahamas posted its second back-to-back victories in 1983 and 1984 to add to their consecutive feats in 1980 and 1981 before Jamaica went on a 28 winning streak. Overall, Jamaica has dominated the games, winning a total of 36 of the 41 versions of the games.
The only other country to win the title was Bermuda in 1975.
Sands said the BAAA is eager to have Carifta return to the Bahamas and while the repairs are being made to the stadiums, the BAAA has already started its selection process for Team Bahamas.
He pointed out that a committee, headed by businessman Harrison Petty and led by legendary coach Keith Parker and five-time Olympic javelin thrower Lavern Eve, will be launching a ‘Talent Search’ throwing competition 1pm Saturday during the National High School Relays at the new TAR stadium.
Although the new $30 millionm 15,000 seat stadium is being used for the various track and field meets while the old stadium is closed for renovations, Sands said they are still waiting on the certification from the IAAF in time to host the meet in the new stadium.
“There are some little minor things like the markings for example on the lanes that are not as accurate as they should be,” Sands said. “There are also some cosmetic works that need to be done to bring it up to occupancy level and that is what the IAAF is insisting that we bring up to standard.”
So far, some 11 countries and more than 300 athletes have registered to participate in the games.
“The organising committee is working around the clock. They are meeting at least once a week,” said Sands of the committee headed by Basil Christie. “Persons have been invited to join as the need arises, so I’m pleased with the progress they are making. There’s always the question of funding, but we’re working on the basis of receiving the necessary funding from corporate Bahamas and individuals to make it a success.”
Sands said they are still negotiating for a title sponsor for the games.
But in the meantime, he noted that Christie and Pauline Davis-Thompson, the third of five Bahamians to win the Austin Sealy award as the most outstanding athlete (1984), is making a tour of the government and private schools with the games mascot, Say-no, promoting the games.
The other Austin Sealy winners from the Bahamas were Maryann Higgs (1978), Lavern Eve (1982 and 1983), Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie (1995) and Anthonique Strachan (2011 and 2012).