By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH 20 weeks left, the National Sports Authority is making sure that the Bahamas is ready to take on the 20-plus countries expected here to participate in the inaugural International Amateur Athletic Federation’s World Relays at the new Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium.
The relays are scheduled for May 24-25 and according to NSC’s deputy chairman Jeff Beckles, both the athletes and the fans will enjoy the tremendous formation that will take place between the original and the new TAR stadium with more than 1,000 athletes competing in the 4?100 metres, 4?200m, 4?400m, 4?800m and the 4?1500m relays with a total prize fund of $1.4 million.
“The NSA will be leading the effort to completely fit out the national stadium and the Thomas A Robinson track for the event,” he said. “That would include a significant upgrade to the old TAR stadium and the national stadium, including refurbishing the track, and giving the entire area around the two complexes a facelift.
“We have gotten the full support from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, which recognises that his mandate was to create facilities where young Bahamian athletes could be developed. So he’s (the minister) given us great support in ensuring that the funding is in place to do what we have to do.”
While the work will be carried over in two phases - the first to take place over the next 20 weeks in order to get ready for the initial relays in 2014, the final phase will be staged leading up to the second relays that will follow in 2015.
When completed, Beckles said the Bahamian public will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with the way the stadium will look.
Additionally, Beckles said the NSA will ensure that the shortcomings that occurred with the international media for the CARIFTA Games and the initial Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational in April will not repeat itself.
“We have looked into the allocation of space within the bleachers stand to accommodate the media and we have already identified a spot that will also enable us to put together a mixed zone, which would allow them to carry out their jobs without the hassle that you all experienced in the past,” Beckles said.
“And we have also looked at ways that we can work with the host broadcasting and the official IAAF broadcasting teams to ensure that they can function because we realise that their work is entirely different from the media. So we have to make sure that they are properly accommodated.”
The access and the safety of patrons is also paramount and Beckles said they have devised a plan that will ensure that they can traverse without any problems because of the transformation that will take place around the perimeter of the two stadiums over the course of the next two years.
And the VIP segment of the stadium will also be upgraded.
Beckles said they intend to work with Seiko, who provides state-of-the-art timing and measurement equipment, designed especially for athletics at the highest level, including false start detection systems, electronic distance measurement devices and transponder timing systems for both track and out-of-stadium races.
And they will also have the presence of Deltatre, which produces information in computers around the stadium that include events schedule, official results, real-time results, flash quotes, news, photos and videos, medals and records information, athletes’ bios, customisable medal alerts and event calendar synchronisation.
BTC, according to Beckles, will be engaged to provide the Internet and wireless telephone, especially to the visiting media, athletes, officials and fans, which is customary for any and all of the IAAF sanctioned events around the world.
“When we are finished, we believe that the media, the athletes and the general public will be very pleased with the work that we would have done to get the national stadium and the TAR stadium ready for the relays,” he said. “This is going to be very exciting for us.”
Having had a chance to travel to Moscow, Russia, in August when the IAAF World Championships was held, Beckles said he was able to learn a whole lot about the way the stadium is set up and managed and he’s hoping to use that experience in helping to bring the two stadiums up to standard.
“The trip was priceless,” Beckles said. “The Bahamas has made a commitment to be a part of the global sporting world and going there and meeting the IAAF technical people, the media and being able to see the operation of the host organising committee, we got a better appreciation for what we have to do here to bring our stadium up to standard.
“It also allowed us to see what modifications that we have to make to our existing facilities and how we can and should build our future facilities. The facility that we were at in Moscow not only hosted previous world championships, but it also hosted the Olympics before. That’s the kind of level that we needed to see and appreciate before we made our improvements here.”
Once they would have completed the entire scope of work, which Dr Johnson has indicated will cost around $3.5 million, Beckles said they will not only be ready to host the IAAF World Relays back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, but the NSA will be in a better position to properly market the venue to the world.