IAAF diplomatic about anointing Bahamas as World Relays’ home

Olivier Gers

A third International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Relays extravaganza has taken place in The Bahamas. The third version of the relatively recent poster event for the world’s parent track and field organization was magnificent. The Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium was aglow throughout the two-day affair on Saturday and Sunday, and a nation exalted in a very special undertaking.
The host expectations were lived up to and without a doubt, The Bahamas solidified its inside track position to become the home country of the IAAF World Relays. It is time though, for a reality check and a full recognition of the factors that must fall in place for such a historic decision to be made by the IAAF.
Most important is a willingness of the Government of The Bahamas to stamp the World Relays as a significant part of our global marketing outreach program. Indeed, there must be an agreement across the board among the nation’s political leaders that the IAAF World Relays’ product is significant enough to our sports growth and general development as a nation, to be officially cemented as a national budget priority.
There would of course be a fee for being designated World Relays home country, in conjunction with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of The Bahamas and the IAAF.
At present, although as IAAF Chief Executive Officer Oliver Gers acknowledges, the general view of the organization is one that is positive to The Bahamas being home location for the World Relays, such a decision requires a whole lot of discussions, far beyond those that have led to the first three installments of the latest IAAF feature event happening in our country.
So, understandably, the IAAF has been dancing around the question of The Bahamas being the World Relays home country. Gers admitted as much, and took the preferred diplomatic course, during the IAAF/Local Organization Committee press conference at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel on Friday, past.
Later that day however, we had a chat and I raised the issue of this being a landmark sports situation for the IAAF in that no country has ever been granted full ongoing rights to an event. Thus, it is important for a Bahamian Government coming to grips with the magnitude of the prospect of being home for the World Relays.
At this time, nobody in the IAAF has any terms to present regarding World Relays home status. Nevertheless, the time is ideal for formal representation to be made by this country to the IAAF.
I know that outgoing Minister of Youth Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson has been the lead Bahamian figure networking with the IAAF to secure host rights for the initial three World Relays and the one, two years down the road in 2019. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Government, which Dr. Johnson represented, has demonstrated an understanding of the great value of this country hosting the World Relays. Dr. Johnson has been able to take the initiative to the present relationship stage with the IAAF, with the blessings of his political colleagues, in particular Prime Minister Perry Christie.
If Christie and the PLP prove successful on May 10 in the general elections, Dr. Johnson, although opting out of frontline politics, should be given the special role to complete the negotiations with the IAAF towards World Relays home autonomy for the country.
If the other major political organization, the Free National Movement (FNM), becomes the government, then there could be an entirely different perspective driving The Bahamas, regarding the World Relays.
FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis would then become the next prime minister in our land. Will he be of the same mind as Christie on the World Relays? I know that in Dr. Minnis’ political camp is Desmond Bannister. He is one of the architects of the modern track and field movement in The Bahamas.
Even if he is considered (by Dr. Minnis) more suitable at this moment in time to another government ministry, Bannister would still be able to pass on his views to the governing party, with emphasis.
The bottom line factor is that if The Bahamas is to go further that a World Relays event-to-event decision by the IAAF, a substantive proposal has to be made and that should take place this year. All that emanates from the IAAF regarding the World Relays being here in The Bahamas has been positive.
To further emphasize the point, I refer readers to what IAAF President Sebastian Coe had to say in his message for World Relays 2017.
“The Bahamians excelled, delivering a world class sports event in 2014 and 2015. The outstanding success of these first two editions illustrated vividly why the World Relays have found a natural home in these glorious islands.”
So, said President Coe. I think “natural home” is most noteworthy.
The IAAF is ready for The Bahamas to make the “home host’ bid.
The time is now though, while the IAAF and the rest of the track and field world have a huge appreciation for how the event has become so captivating in such a short space of time, here in The Bahamas.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com 

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