Following the handing over of the baton from immediate past president Victor Lopez to newly elected president Mike Sands, the new North American, Central American and Caribbean office is now open.
The official ceremony, conducted by former ZNS sportscaster Ricardo Lightbourn, took place yesterday at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium as World Athletics’ President Lord Sebastian Coe gave the keynote address and cut the ribbon.
Among those present were Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle, World Athletics’ council member, American former world triple jump record holder Willie Banks and members of the NACAC Council.
In an emotional address, as he paid tribute to his late mentor Dr Bernard Nottage, Sands welcomed the audience and he singled out Alpheus ‘Hawk’ Finlayson, his predecessor, who was elected as the first Council member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), followed by Pauline Davis-Thompson.
Now sitting around the table as an executive of the World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, he said today is an historic one as the 36 member associations from Central America, United States of America, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean get a president and an office in an English-speaking country for only the second time in his history.
“The Bahamas is undoubtedly one of the smallest members of the association, but it’s not the size of the country, but the genuine commitment and dedication of its people in their pursuit of excellence in their athletic endeavours that allows us to be recognised as a powerhouse in sports,” he stated.
He commended the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations, headed by President Drumeco Archer, for standing in solidarity with NACAC towards sustainable development of the sports in the region.
He thanked Rolle and her ministry and the NSA for the role they played in making it possible for NACAC to occupy their space in the stadium with the new offices, one for administration and the other for operations.
And he expressed his gratitude to Coe for taking the time to attend and officiate at the opening of the office. He also thanked Coe for sitting, listening and sharing in the discussions that were had by the executives of NACAC in their first official congress here this week.
Coe, who returned to the Bahamas after visiting here several times, starting back in 1987 as he was preparing for the 1988 Olympic Games, said the sport of athletics has a rich history and he was indeed delighted to be a part of the ceremony. “I like days like this because as the president of the World Athletics, it’s my first visit at the beginning of the decade to visit a continental meeting and so there is no place I would rather be than here, opening or being a part of the ceremony to mark the opening of the NACAC office.”
As the youngest of its six continental associations, Coe said it has moved its home more than any other, but he’s happy to be able to recognise the world of NACAC as he’s had the pleasure of sitting and sharing in their discussions over the last few days.
“For us to sit in headquarters, I can go to my grave knowing that the best decisions are being made at the local level with local expertise and experience. That is why I am so pleased to be here to mark some fresh pages in the history of this great sport in the region that has created so much history in the sport of track and field. Your history is our history.”
Lopez, who served previously as the president of NACAC, also highlighted the contribution that Nottage made during the era of the Central American and Caribbean before the birth of NACAC.
He said the sport is certainly in good hands with Sands as the new president and he was delighted to be able to pass the baton on, but disappointed that all of the flags did not arrive in time from Puerto Rico where he sat in office.
However, Lopez and Coe did present Sands with a copy of the new World Athletics flag, which replaced the former International Amateur Athletic Federation, as it was previously called.
Having facilitated NACAC through the National Sports Authority, headed by Burton Rodgers, with the office space at the stadium, Rolle said her ministry is very pleased with the contributions of the sport in the past.
She also recognised immediate past Minister of Sports, Dr Daniel Johnson and Senator Fred Mitchell, both of whom were in the audience, along with British High Commissioner Sarah Dickson.
Quoting from legendary Olympic champion Jesse Owens, Rolle said while “we all have, but in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
She lauded Sands for having the determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort to make the dream of not only becoming the NACAC president but to have the office relocated to the Bahamas, a reality.Rolle thanked the BAAA, for the role they played in helping to facilitate the efforts of Sands and the dreams of so many athletes.
She noted that having the NACAC office at the stadium is not just an honour, but a privilege and they will commit their support to Sands to ensuring that the work of NACAC will continue to flourish.
And Bahamas Olympic Committee president Rommel Knowles said while he was instrumental in helping to cast a vote to get softball and baseball reinstated into the Olympic Games, he’s sure that under Sands’ leadership, NACAC will make its presence felt even more in the sport of track and field.
He congratulated Sands and his executives in NACAC and he pledged the full support of the BOC, of which Sands served previously as a vice president while Knowles was the secretary-general.
Catherine Jordan, the vice president of NACAC, who hails from Barbados, gave the vote of thanks, praising everyone who made their trip here a successful one before Lord Coe cut the ribbons to officially open the new office.