By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH their season opener postponed over the weekend, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations is now more concerned about the remainder of its calendar of events heading into the return of the CARIFTA Games this Easter.
The BAAA was denied the opportunity to stage their annual Odd Distance Meet on Saturday at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium because of the stringent health and safety protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health over the rise in cases in COVID-19 and the latest variant, Omicron.
But BAAA president Drumeco Archer said the precedent set could have an adverse effect on their season moving forward, especially as they try to provide a wholesome environment for their athletes to train and compete in.
Based on the requirements by the Ministry of Health, Archer said the BAAA saw the wisdom by mandating that all of its athletes, coaches and officials provide a negative COVID-19 test 24 hours prior to the staging of their events.
“I believe that would have provided us with the greatest degree of accuracy and protection any social gathering could afford,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health denied the application. We believe our sport has always been the leader in following the guidelines and protocols of COVID-19 and it’s our appeal to the ministry to allow our sport to continue.”
With the Jamaican government and the Jamaican Amateur Athletic Association launching their 100-day campaign leading up to the hosting of the CARIFTA Games in April, Archer said the BAAA is concerned about the fitness level of their athletes and the manner in which they prepare them for their international competition.
“We need to work very carefully and very closely with the government authorities so that we can deliver safe and productive competitions for the sake of the opportunities,” he stated. “This would be the third year that we have been challenged with these issues, which have had a drastic impact on the scholastic opportunities for our student-athletes.
“Not being able to showcase themselves locally and internationally, and regionally, has been a tremendous strain on the athletes to be able to free education in this country. So it’s far reaching, the decisions that are being made. I believe we have a robust regime that is second to none. The requirements being imposed on all of our stakeholders and the testing we are imposing are higher than any standard that is being implemented elsewhere particularly in a 15,000 seat arena where we can distance ourselves and still feel safe.”
While the Odd Distance was called off this weekend, Archer said he’s optimistic that the Ministry of Health will reconsider its position and allow them to stage the meet this weekend where there is a vacant spot on their calendar.
“With the protocols we are imposing, it allows us to provide a safe environment in which are athletes can compete,” Archer said.
With the precedent already set for their sport, Archer said he has noticed that there are other events with a lot more persons involved being held and so they are asking the government to consider their recommendations so that it won’t have an adverse effect on their athletes.
In addition to the Odd Distance Meet, both the T-Bird Flyers and the Red-Line Athletic Track Clubs have announced that their meets, which were also scheduled for this month, have been called off because they were not given the permission by the Ministry of Health to host them.
To the athletes, Archer expressed his sympathy to them, but would only like to encourage them to continue to train and prepare for the upcoming season as if there is one heading into the CARIFTA Games.
“We’re going to try to be as competitive as we can,” said Archer of the Bahamas, which normally provides the stiffest challenge to the perennial kingpins, Jamaica. “There is only way to remain competitive and that is to continue training.
“So my recommendations to the athletes are to remain safe, create and continue to create a safe and healthy environment by following the safety and health protocols, but we simply can not stop training right now. The stakes are just simply too high.”
After hosting a series of events last year, mainly without any fan participation in the stands, Archer said it’s their hope that they will be allowed to have a full scale calendar of events this year, especially with the CARIFTA Games returning after a two-year hiatus.
The Games, the brainchild of Barbados’ Austin Sealy in 1972, should have been preparing for its 50th golden anniversary in Barbados. But those celebrations have been delayed and are now expected to take place next year.