By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WHILE Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has opened the door for professional athletes to resume training amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Bahamas Olympic Committee is seeking further clarification as to who should and should not be allowed to utilise the local facilities.
In a letter dated May 11 and addressed to its membership, the BOC wrote that they are seeking clarity on professional athletes and for an extension and or consideration for athletes who have world, regional, collegiate and Olympic qualifiers over the next 12 months.
“In the interim, we ask that you and your membership continue to practice the protocols as advised by our health officials and listen to the updates provided by the Ministry of Health,” the BOC wrote. “We will monitor in conjunction with all of our partners globally, including the Ministry of Sports and will advise you as they become available.”
BOC president Rommel Knowles, said since Minnis announcement last week, they have discovered that there are a number of athletes who are seeking permission to resume their training for their collegiate, regional and major international competition.
“Training for the Olympic qualifiers is a high priority for the athletes, some of whom are not professional athletes,” Knowles said. “So we ask the Prime Minister to give them some priority as well. We know that there are some swimmers who are home, who would like to get in the pool to do some drills.
“We also know that there are some athletes who are in college who are home and would like to have access to the track facilities. So we want to be able to get some clarity as to who is eligible to utilise the training facilities, rather than just saying professional athletes when there are only a few of them at home.”
While the professional athletes are taking advantage of the opportunity to train at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium for the World Athletics’ outdoor season that could possibly start in August, the local swimmers are hoping to get into the pool at the Betty Kelly Kenning Swim Complex in preparation for their season.
However, it’s understood that the Bahamas Swimming Federation is contemplating scrapping its Royal Bank of Canada’s National Swimming Championships, scheduled for June 18-21. The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ Nationals was also set for June, but that has been called off.
World Athletics has reserved a weekend in August for its member countries to hold their National Championships, but BAAA president Drumeco Archer has indicated that they will not be able to host their nationals at that time, considering that the Bahamas government has closed off borders for travel.
The majority of the senior athletes are based in the United States and while many of them are doing minimum training, Archer said they also have their youth and junior nationals to consider and the majority of those athletes are not training as a result of the 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns implemented by the government to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Once the government fully opens up the economy, Knowles said there will have to be some serious consideration on the landscape of sports, not just in the country, but worldwide as a result of the social distancing and the limitation in contact sports.
“For those sports that have 10 or more persons on the field of play at any one particular time, we will have to look at how do we encourage social distancing,” Knowles said. “We have to ensure that everybody wears their masks and we may have to look at some form of testing to ensure that persons are not coming into the arena contaminated.”
Already, the International Olympic Committee has postponed the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, to August 2021.
The IOC is now in the process of amending its qualification process to take into consideration those athletes who were on the borderline before sports was suspended worldwide in March.
Knowles said it’s going to be a challenge for contact sports to survive in the new regime that will be established.
“We are going to have to implement stiffer rules and regulations to protect the athletes first of all,” he said. “We will have to look at whether the arena can and will hold fans using the social distancing rule or do we go ahead and have sporting events without the fans.
“We will be discussing all of these details with the individual federations, making sure that they are all comfortable and the athletes are safe. The whole landscape of sports has changed and so we have to adopt to those, changing for the betterment of sports in the future.”
With two major sporting bodies on the path to having athletes qualified for the Olympics next year, Knowles said the BOC is in discussion with the BAAA and the BSF on what level of assistance will be provided to ensure that their competitors are properly prepared for the Olympics.
He also noted that the Bahamas Judo Federation, Bahamas Amateur Boxing Federation and Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association is also being considered because they all have the potential of having at least one competitor qualified for the games as well.
“We want to help them to be able to get through this process once we get out of this pandemic,” Knowles said.