FNM Government has chance to revisit IAAF 2019 World Relays “host” decision

Jamaica is out and The Bahamas could end up back in the driving seat for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) 4th World Relays event.

Very early this year, I began to hear little rumblings from within the Government of the Bahamas that the Cabinet was leaning in favor of relinquishing the rights to host the 2019 World Relays, scheduled for May.

Former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard had held discussions, I was told, with IAAF officials regarding the 2019 World Relays, in August of 2017 and came away positive that the event would indeed go on.

Apparently, he either later formed the view that the reported $5 million financial tag the government would have to cover was too much, or Pintard was unable to get enough support from within the Cabinet to go forward on the unique sports extravaganza that had become synonymous with our country.

In July, it became official, The Bahamas would not host the 2019 IAAF World Relays because as indicated, the cost was beyond what was acceptable by the government. With notice apparently much too short, the IAAF was left to scramble to maintain continuity of the schedule of the World Relays being hosted every two years.

Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association(JAAA) officials then stepped into the picture. They lobbied the IAAF and got permission to seek an endorsement from the Government of Jamaica. However, last week, came the announcement that the Jamaican Government decided against coming up with the $5 million cost.

A report from one of Jamaica’s leading newspapers, The Gleaner, informed of the disappointment of JAAA President Dr. Warren Blake.

“It is disappointing, but it is what it is. If the government felt at this time it was hard, with the given economic situation, then that is it. The decision was for Jamaica to say we could afford to host the event, and we needed the government to say they could come up with the financial backing,” said Blake.

That did not happen, so Jamaica is out and the IAAF is looking for a host, once again.

This is the point whereby the Government of The Bahamas should quickly revisit its earlier Cabinet conclusion, get back on the World Relays wagon and make a change for the better.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis should take the lead in another look at World Relays 2019.

In, light of the millions of dollars the government has been able to find for nationally-important matters, most recently, allocating $5 million to renew the World Relays relationship with the IAAF would be fully in order and make the statement of “great care” for the Bahamas Sports Brand.

Considering the circumstances, the Bahamas Government, with proper crunching of the financial numbers might be able to pull off the World Relays next year with perhaps $1 million less. Included in the $5 million cost for Jamaica was bringing its national stadium up to the standard required for an official IAAF event. We already went through that process at the Thomas A. Robinson New National Stadium for the first World Relays in 2014.

Also, in place, left by the previous central administration when Dr. Daniel Johnson was the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture under the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Government, was the World Relays template, the structure of operation that had been crafted with IAAF officials.

All told, the view here is that the government could indeed slice the upfront cost for the World Relays of 2019 by at least one million dollars.

The World Relays could become quite the big branded economic vehicle for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. If marketed effectively, the World Relays could develop for The Bahamas, into what mega athletics events, such as the World Outdoor Championships, World Indoor Championships, World Cross Country Championships are; as well as what international marathons, grand slam tennis and golf tournaments, etc.; have evolved to in respective venues around the world.

The IAAF/world Relays could be our major sports cash product, bringing in thousands of visitors yearly, and providing job opportunities for hundreds, inclusive of vendors of food and souvenirs. The option to get back to the table with the IAAF to reclaim the rights for the World Relay is a no-brainer in my view.

Let’s see what happens.

•To respond to this column,kidly contact Fred Sturruo at sturrup1504@gmail.com or on WhatsApp at 727-6363.

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