Thousands of Bahamians came out to the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays on Saturday and Sunday at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. The event was well organized and a pleasure to watch from the crowded stands.
The Bahamas walked away with a second place in the men’s 4x400 meters (m) relay. That team won gold in the 2012 London Olympics and at the Penn Relays this year, defeating the United States each time. But on Sunday the U.S., led by LaShawn Merritt, came back and defeated The Bahamas in the final meters of the race.
Three world records were set at the relays. The first came in the women’s 4x1,500m race by the Kenyan team; the second, in the men’s 4x200m by Jamaica, and the third was by the Kenyan men in the 4x1,500m.
The first global track meet held in The Bahamas helped fill hotels and give a boost to local businesses catering to those attending the event. The event will be seen around the world, further promoting The Bahamas as a place to visit and to hold major sports events.
The seats at the stadium were virtually filled by the end of each night of the races. Bahamians, however, must get used to the fact that international events mostly start on time. Therefore showing up late, as we so sadly do so often, will result in missing some of what you paid to see.
The stadium was a gift from the Chinese government. We had to invest tens of millions of dollars to complete associated works. With the list of events we have had (the Tottenham Hotspur/Jamaican Reggae Boys soccer exhibition, CARIFTA Games 2013 and the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational) and those to come (the first ever historically black colleges and universities classic game, the Bahamas Bowl and World Relays 2015), The Bahamas is clearly developing as an offshore sports destination.
Lionel Haven, World Relays Local Organizing Committee managing director, said as they look ahead to 2015, organizers are expecting a grander event.
“For next year in particular, we would have a huge head-start in that we would have more time on our side in terms of planning and organization,” he said.
Special commendation should also go out to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. It led the security effort for the competition. By all accounts, there were no major incidents. Assistant Commissioners Stephen Seymour and Leon Bethel did well in guiding their team and ensuring our safety.
Based on the success of the World Relays, the agency responsible for the stadium, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism should put full effort behind further international bookings for our new sports venue. That stadium could end up being a major part of the Bahamian tourism product, if it is known in international sporting circles.
As Bahamians, we should be proud that we are leading our region in entering the global sports arena.
The Nassau Guardian
Published May 27, 2014