By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
BAHAMAS Amateur Athletics Association president Rosamunde Carey said while it's disappointing that the Bahamas won't be hosting the continuation of the International Amateur Athletics Federation's World Relays, she's excited to hear that Yokohama, Japan, will now stage the fourth edition next year as a prelude to the Olympic Games in Toyko, Japan in 2020.
The IAAF announced on Friday that after the Bahamas Government confirmed that it would no longer be able to offer the financial guarantee that underpinned the event in Nassau, several member federations contacted the IAAF directly to express their interest in hosting the 2019 World Relays.
Following very careful consideration, Japan was considered to be the preferred location and will be held in the Yokohama International Stadium May 11-12, 2019.
The first three editions of the IAAF World Relays, in 2014, 2015 and 2017, were held in the Bahamian capital, which proved to be an exceptional host of the new event.
"We were working with the former Minister of Sports (Michael Pintard) on trying to get the event to remain here, but after speaking with the Prime Minister (Hubert Minnis), we understand their reason for not wanting to continue to stage it right now," said Carey, who was told that it was not economically feasible at this time for the government to stage the event that now has a price tag of $5 million.
Carey, the first female president of the BAAA who is preparing for another term in office when she will be challenged by incumbent secretary general Drumeco Archer when the elections are held during the annual general meeting November 23-24, said a number of countries have expressed their disappointment in the Bahamas not hosting the World Relays again.
"They thought that this was the Bahamas' niche because we've had it from its inception and we have grown it into such a huge commodity that when everybody talks about the World Relays, it was synonymous with the Bahamas. So I've had a lot of persons call me hoping that it would come back to the Bahamas after going to Japan.
"We will work with the IAAF and see how best we can get it back here in the future. We have asked them to consider us for 2021 and 2023. We know that Jaamaica was in conversation with the IAAF about hosting it in 2021. So we are working on trying to get it back here in 2021 or 2023,
IAAF President Sebastian Coe thanked The Bahamas for its key role in establishing the World Relays as a successful competition and welcomed Yokohama as only the second city to host the event.
"I am delighted that Yokohama has stepped in to host our youngest World Athletics Series event and I am confident that they will do an outstanding job despite the short preparation period," Coe said.
"Several of our Member Federations expressed interest in hosting the popular IAAF World Relays next year and I thank them for their efforts, which confirm the appeal of what is a very entertaining team-based competition with a unique spirit."
Carey revealed that Japanese crowds are renowned for their enthusiastic support and he's sure they will give the athletes a tremendous reception next year.
"This will also be a great opportunity for our athletes to experience the culture and conditions of the host nation little more than a year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games," he stated. "Yokohama has long been regarded as the gateway to Japan, as the first port opened to foreign trade in 1859, and now it will once again welcome the world."
The president of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, Hiroshi Yokokawa, said he was excited to invite the athletes of the world to compete in Yokohama.
"The Bahamas have left important footprints on the history of athletics by organizing the IAAF World Relays for the past three editions, and it is an honour and privilege for Japan to receive the baton from them," Yokokawa said.
"The hosting of the World Relays will provide us a platform and opportunity to build up towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The advancement of athletics in Japan is closely integrated with our relay culture, and there is strong interest and excitement to welcome the top runners from around the world.
With seven months to go, Yokokawa promise that they will showcase the best competition and to mark a new page in the history of the World Relays.
The Mayor of Yokohama, Fumiko Hayashi, said her city was ready to welcome athletics fans and she was confident that the citizens of her city would embrace such a vibrant event.
"It is a great honour for Yokohama to be the first city in Japan to host the IAAF World Relays," she said. "As host city, we will be working together with our citizens to stoke up excitement for the event and provide the best possible environment for top athletes.
"I hope many of you come and enjoy the fastest racing in the world as it unfolds in Yokohama."
Regrettably, Carey said after doing so much with the World Relays, including introducing a new format for the entrance of the athletes to compete in their events and the presentation of awards immediately after they completed their event.
And as a climax to the third edition in 2017, the IAAF replaced the distance medley with the mixed gender 4 x 400m relay, which also became the grand finale at the two day meet at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. As the curtain came down before a jammed packed crowd, in a fitting tribute, the Bahamas team of Steven Gardiner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu won the gold.
"We appreciate all that the government has done and we will continue to work with the government to build sports in the Bahamas," Carey stressed. "We are also going to looking at the government to provide that same $1.9 million that was put aside to stage the World Relays to allow us to use to send a very strong team to Japan. We have to go there and make a strong statement."
Yokohama (which means Horizontal Beach) is Japan's second largest city by population with 3.7 million people and lies on Tokyo Bay, just south of Tokyo, on the main island of Honshu. Originally a small fishing village, it developed rapidly after 1859 when it became the first port in Japan opened to foreign trade. It is now Japan's most multi-cultural city.
The average high temperature in May is 22.4 degrees Celsius.