By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
HE’S now serving as the new president of the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC). But by the time his tenure is over in four years, Mike Sands said he hopes to leave the area’s biggest track and field organisation in a much better position than he met it.
Sands, a former Bahamian 200/400 metre Olympian who went on to become the public relations officer and president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations and a vice president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee, said he’s very excited about his new role as a member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, now known as World Athletics.
“I offered myself for the position through the BAAA and the membership, which I refer to the NACAC membership, proposed their confidence in me by electing me as the new president,” said Sands, who was voted in office in June to replace Victor Lopez from Puerto Rico.
“There’s a role that I have been given, that as the area representative at the IAAF, as well as sitting on the council of the IAAF, which really determines the direction that the sport will go. I have a seat at the table to represent the views of the area.”
Having officially taken office at the completion of the IAAF Congress in October during the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Sands is now preparing for the opening of the new NACAC office on Tuesday.
The office will be moved from Puerto Rico where it was located during Lopez’ tenure as president.
“Through the office, we will have the opportunity to be able to communicate with each federation members to determine their needs,” said Sands of NACAC that is made up of some 36 member associations, including the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“During the campaign trail, my message was very clear to them all. One by one, we will build their federation so they will have to identify their opportunities and then we will focus on them collectively to form a stronger area.”
As one of six areas affiliated with the IAAF or the World Athletics, Sands said the athletes have proven that NACAC is the strongest at the World Championships, winning 50 medals, including 20 gold and several world records broken during the course of the year.
“We have the big powers like the United States and Jamaica, but the potential in the region is limitless,” Sands said. “So we want to bring those member federations up and they will have to identify how we can improve them so we can continue growing from strength to strength.”
The IAAF or World Athletics is introducing the Continental Cup this year. The pilot programme will enable the region to divide its events into gold, silver and bronze based on the prize money that they will offer.
“It will work very well with the plans that I had in mind for NACAC,” Sands said. “With track and field and sports now becoming big business, the Area Continental Circuit will be designed for that second tier of athletes who can’t get a lane in the big meets, but will have a chance to compete in meets in the area and earn monies.”
With the IAAF or World Athletics creating a point and ranking system for its athletes, Sands said events in the Area Continental Cup will allow the regional athletes to earn their points so that they can be included in the world rankings.
“So those athletes who will need points to qualify for the World Championships can get them by competing in the meets in the region that have already been established like the Jamaican Invitational and the Karina James Invitational.
“It’s labelled as a pilot project, but hopefully it will be a success for the 2020 season. It’s being introduced for the first time and we hope that member federations will apply in hosting one of the meets to be designated as an inclusion in the Area Continental Cup.”
While NACAC will open its office in the Bahamas next week, Sands said there are no meets planned for the Bahamas for the Area Continental Cup, but he’s hoping that the NACAC Championships will be staged at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium after the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“The Bahamas has not submitted an application for any meet here, but unfortunately there is no host yet for the NACAC Championships,” Sands said. “But we have approached the Bahamas several weeks ago to indicate to them that we are very interested in them hosting the NACAC Championships.
“Because the World Athletics is encouraging athletes to compete at home, no events will take place during the NACAC Championships and so hopefully we can get all of the top athletes to compete here, which is the same time as the European Championships.”
Sands said once the office is opened, NACAC will turn its attention to Hamilton, Bermuda, the site for the hosting of the CARIFTA Games over the Easter holiday weekend as they assist wherever it is necessary.