By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
COMING on the heels of the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon three weeks ago and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the focus now switches to the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships in the Bahamas.
The event, to be hosted here for the first time, will be staged from August 18-21 at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Grand Bahama and is expected to attract over 400 athletes from within the region.
NACAC president Mike Sands said the event is gearing up to be one of the most competitive track and field meets ever to be held in the Bahamas, although all roads will lead into Grand Bahama.
“We’re looking forward to the event in the next 10 days in Freeport, Grand Bahamas,” Sands said.
“We have a preliminary list of about 420-450 athletes, but once the final submissions are in, we expect the numbers to remain pretty close to that.
“We have some pretty interesting marquee names who will be attending, so we will do a full release on that in a short while. But we expect a very competitive event. Everyone is talking about it, the athletes, coaches and officials, who will be attending the event.”
With so much anticipation for the event, Sands said there have also been some inquiries from persons attending, who just want to take a few days to relax and enjoy themselves in the Bahamas once the event is completed.
“There are a couple of things that have sparked the interest of so many athletes,” according to Sands. “The winners in the vast majority of events and I say vast majority because there are several events like the marathon, distance running and the walk races, which does not apply, but the winners automatically qualify for the World Championships next year.”
The 2023 World Championships is scheduled for Budapest, Hungary, and Sands said the winners in the majority of events contested in Grand Bahama would book their tickets as NACAC representatives and will only have to concentrate on their training.
Additionally, NACAC will be offering a prize for all, including for the top three finishers. They will include $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second and $500 for third.
The relay teams, which will also get to qualify for the World Championships, will also collect prize money.
“World Athletics is now moving to a ranking system as a part of their major qualifying system, so they will receive Diamond League type points awarded to athletes, based on their placing here,” Sands said.
“As this meet has all of the makings of a real success in terms of the competition, the meet director was in Grand Bahama making sure that all of the nuts and bolts are tight and he’s working with the operational people in Grand Bahama.
“The organisational delegate, who is also the general secretary, will be landing on Grand Bahama tomorrow, so the guys are working in tandem to make sure that all of the events are in place.”
Bahamasair, Sands revealed, will be the official airline carrier and will take extra flights out of Miami, Florida into Grand Bahama for persons coming in from the region, including the Cuban delegation.
“This is a very busy period, but everything is in order,” Sands disclosed.
Sands, however, said he would prefer not to release the names of the marque athletes coming in, especially from Jamaica, which has submitted a list of more than 20 athletes, but they haven’t crystalised it yet.
A number of athletes, including two-time Olympic and current world champion Shaunae Miller- Uibo, world indoor and Commonwealth Games silver 100m hurdler Devynne Charlton, sprinters Tynia Gaither and Terrance Jones, quarter-miler Alonzo Russell, high jumper Donald Thomas, triple jumpers Kaiwan Culmer and Tamara Myers and Commonwealth Games’ long jump gold medallist LaQuan Nairn are all expected to represent the Bahamas.
Sands said while a budget has been compiled in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Finance, he was not at liberty to disclose the full amount. He, however, thanked the Bahamas Government, through the two ministries, for their assistance in making the event happen.
“We always talk about the expenses, but we also have to look at the economic impact,” Sands said. “The fact that we are talking about sports tourism or Sports in Paradise, this is an event where we hope to have at least 450 persons on the island of Grand Bahama.
“So it was a deliberate decision to host this event on Grand Bahama and I want to thank the support given to help stimulate the economy in Grand Bahama.
“We have rooms all over Grand Bahama and so that means that the monies will be spread around.”
The technical officials are expected to stay at Club Fortuna, the senior officials, including the council members and dignitaries, will be at the Lighthouse Pointe and the Athletes’ Village will be at the Breakers Cay.
“When you look at the economic impact, the transportation, the meals, the accommodation that the visitors will spend, we take into consideration the temporary employment that will be needed to pull this event off,” Sands said.