By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE International Amateur Athletic Federation’s World Relays, which took the world by storm since its inception in The Bahamas in 2014, has been cancelled by the Bahamas government, ten months away before the country was due to host the event again in May next year.
No official word has been released from the government, but Michael Pintard, who was just relieved of his position as the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture before the decision was made, declined to comment.
Pintard, who has been moved to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, referred the matter to Lanisha Rolle, who replaced him in office on Wednesday.
Rolle, formerly the Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, was unavailable for comment.
Efforts were also made to contact Pauline Davis, the IAAF councilwoman, but she declined to comment. Davis, who will celebrate her 52nd birthday on Monday, said she preferred to wait until she received clarification from the government.
But Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ president Rosamunde Carey, who served as chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the last World Relays in 2017, said it’s quite disappointing that The Bahamas will not be the host any more.
“It’s very unfortunate that after working so hard to make The Bahamas the destination for the World Relays that we won’t be able to host it again,” Carey said.
“Over the years, we have made this one of the premier events hosted by the IAAF, because a lot of the things that were introduced at the World Relays are now being staged at various meets by the IAAF.”
The latest addition was the mixed relays, was staged for the first time in 2017 at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium when the team of Steven Gardiner, Shanuae Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu won The Bahamas’ first gold at the championships in a time of three minutes and 14.42 seconds.
The IAAF has agreed to add the mixed relays to its schedule of events during the IAAF World Championships, scheduled for September 28 to October 6, 2019, in Doha, Qatar.
Also since the three previous championships, held in 2014, 2015 and 2017, the IAAF has introduced the teams as a quartet when they entered at the start of the 100m on the track, and the winners were presented with their medals immediately following the event. Those two features of the World Relays were also carried over to some IAAF events.
Carey said that while The Bahamas won’t host the event on May 10-11, 2019, as originally planned, it’s not known who will pick up the baton and stage it next year. She said that she had spoken to IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe, and several countries have expressed an interest.
She indicated that Coe is expected to make a formal announcement on the cancellation by The Bahamas and the possible venue for the next host country by next week.
The last World Relays, according to Carey, was estimated to cost about $5m to stage, including accommodations and transportation for the athletes and dignitaries that attended.
“It’s very disappointing, but we understand the consensus of the government,” she said. “As the former chairman, I just want to say thank you to the previous Bahamas Government and the IAAF for allowing us to showcase such a prestigious event.
“We have made The Bahamas a global sporting mecca, hosting the event to the high standard that the IAAF expected us to put on. We have been able to put the event as a staple on their calendar and fulfill the confidence that they had placed in our council and The Bahamas in general.”
With the BAAA preparing to go to elections in November, Carey said she’s not certain if the BAAA would be putting in a bid to host any other event in the next few years, including the return of the World Relays in 2021.