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The Hosting of Track and Field Competitions in The Bahamas
By Alpheus Finlayson, BAAA
Sep 6, 2012 - 8:18:49 PM

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Shonel Ferguson Jumps New Bahamian Record at 1976 Carift.

The Bahamas will be hosting significant international Track & Field events, the Carifta Games in 2013 and the World Relays in 2014 and 2015

According to our records, a team from Jamaica which included superstar Keith Gardner, was the first foreign team to participate in The Bahamas when the 1953 Coronation Meet was held.

That was a year after the founding of the Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations.

It took another twenty-three years until the country hosted a regional competition, The Carifta Games in 1976.

The Bahamas participated in the second Carifta Games, held in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago in 1973. At the second Games in Jamaica in 1974 the BAAA, under the presidency of Winston Cooper, were taking a look at whether The Bahamas could have hosted the Games.

Some people felt we could have and some felt we could not host the regional junior competition.

In 1975 the Games were held in Bermuda and Prime Minister Pindling asked Dr. Bernard Nottage and then senator Perry Christie to travel to Bermuda and make a determination as to whether The Bahamas could have hosted these Games.

The answer was in the affirmative and plans were set to do the same.


Not everybody shared the enthusiasm of Dr. Nottage, BAAA president Winston Cooper, and now Prime Minister Christie.

Some said we did not have the facilities, the athletes, the officials, or the money.

On the final evening of the competition that April of 1976, there was standing room only in the stadium and The Bahamas had placed third behind Jamaica and Bermuda with twenty-seven medals.

That single competition made believers out of many Bahamians as well as many athletic bodies in the region.


The World Scene

Up to that time there was no athletic competition organized by the IAAF, the world governing body of Track & Field and the Olympic Champion was the World Champion.

The IAAF World Cup

It was not until 1977 in Dusseldorf, Germany that the IAAF inaugurated the IAAF World Cup of Athletics. This was a competition based upon teams from areas of the world like The Americas without The United States, Europe without Germany, East Germany, and The Soviet Union The United States; Africa, and Oceania.

One of the athletes victorious in Nassau in 1976, Shonel Ferguson, participated in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and in the Düsseldorf World Cup in the Long Jump.


Additional Regional Competitions

With the assistance of the Government of The Bahamas and the business community The Bahamas hosted the 1978 Carifta Games and 1980 Central American and Caribbean Junior Track & Field Championships, the latter of which we won. We also hosted the 1981 Carifta which we captured.

The IAAF World Championships

It was not until 1983 that the IAAF held it’s inaugural World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, the site of the 1952 Olympic Games.

Our Best Effort At Carifta

In 1984 the corporate community came on board in a significant way with Shell Bahamas becoming the Title Partner of the Games.

The Bahamas had its best effort at Carifta when they won 58 medals for the win. This would be the highest ever medal tally for The Bahamas and the last time we would capture the Games.

Ramon Miller of The Bahamas (left) at the 2012 Olympics Games in London (Getty Images)

Pan American Jr. Track & Field Championships

That August after the Los Angeles Olympic Games The Bahamas hosted the Pan American and Caribbean Jr. Track & Field Championships.

Lavern Eve was the top Bahamian participant winning the Shot Put and placing second in the Javelin.

The Olympic 1988 200m men’s champion Joe Deloach from The USA won both sprints in Nassau.

Other notable athletes participating were Kenny Harrison, the 1996 Olympic Triple Jump champion, and Gail Devers, the brilliant sprinter/ hurdler, both from The USA, to name only a few.


First Senior Competition/ Sr. Central American and Caribbean Championships

The Bahamas hosted the 1985 Central American and Caribbean Track & Field Championships in Nassau. These Championships were sponsored by Esso Standard Oil SA.

We placed third to Cuba and Mexico. At that time these championships served as a qualifier for the Americas Cup Trials. At the Americas Cup Trials teams were selected for the Americas Team of the World Cup.

Our Shonel Ferguson made yet another Americas Team.

Some of the stars of these CAC Sr. Championships were Merlene Ottey and Grace Jackson of Jamaica.

Other championships held in The Bahamas were the 1987 Central American and Caribbean Age Group Championships in which Debbie Ferguson Mckenzie made her debut, the 1988 CAC Jr. Championships, the 1992 Royal Bank Carifta Games, the 1994 Central American and Caribbean Cross Country Championships, the 2001 CAC Age Group Championships in Grand Bahama, the 2002 Neymour Construction Carifta Games in which Usain Bolt was named the Austin Sealy Winner as the Most Outstanding Athlete, the 2005 Sr. CAC Championships with Title Partner Colina Imperia, in which Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt participated, and the 2009 CAC Age Group Championships.

The Bahamas has also hosted several One Day competitions including the Walter Wisdom Track & Field Classic, the Nassau Invitational and the Partners International Meet.

Earlier this year The Bahamas won the bid to host the 2013 Carifta Games.

The World Stage

After having hosted all these regional and One Day meets Track & Field enthusiasts in The Bahamas thought it was time to host an international event.

There were two events thought possible, the IAAF World Youth Championships and the IAAF World Junior Championships.

Due to the new state of the art national stadium that the first Christie Government planned it was felt that we had a good chance.

The BAAA started to organize a bid in 2010 for the World Youth, and in 2011 for the World Juniors.

The bids would have needed a significant Govermnent financial guarantee which was not forthcoming.

The 2013 World Youth Championships was given to Donetsk, The Ukraine and the 2014 World Juniors to Eugene, Oregon.


A Brand New Event: IAAF World Relays

In the last few years the IAAF Council considered the establishment of a brand new event, The IAAF World Relays.

They agreed that the inaugural event should have been held in the Bahamas. This event also had significant Government financial guarantees but the former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham approved it. After the change of Government in May of 2012 the IAAF visited The Bahamas and the new Christie Government confirmed their financial guarantee.

The World Relays will be held in 2014 and 2015. It is a two day event with the normal relays held in the Olympic Games and World Championships, that is the 4x100m and 4x400m relay, in addition to other relays held around the world, the 4x200m, 4x1500m, sprint medley, and distance medley relays.

This means that for the next three years The Bahamas will be hosting significant international Track & Field events, the Carifta Games in 2013 and the World Relays in 2014 and 2015.


The same challenges that the naysayers felt we could not handle nearly forty years ago, money, facilities, athletes, and technical organization are still with us.

The Bahamas has fallen behind the success they enjoyed at the Carifta level over a quarter of a century ago but has shown they are coming back based upon their performance in the last three Carifta Games.

We have to go back to basics as we did when we hosted the 1976 Carifta Games and search for talent in every nook and cranny in this archipelagic nation.

We need to cover all the events, especially in the World Relays!

We have to demonstrate to corporate Bahamas the value of their contributions and give them something in return.

We have to persuade thousands of volunteers to get on board.

The region knows that we have hosted some of the best Carifta Games ever.

The IAAF has trust in the BAAA that we can pull off a successful Inaugural World Relays Championships.



There would be no reason for a nation to organize events at this level if there were not sufficient opportunities for the people and the sport.

The demonstration that the Bahamas can host both of these events at the top level is an opportunity we should not miss.

This means that we need to embrace the new technical advancements in the sport at the world level. This is definitely an opportunity not to be missed.

Then there is the opportunity for the entire world to see the best of The Bahamas, whether it is through the worldwide press and television coverage, or through the thousands of family and fans who will visit to cheer on their children or athletes, which will inject millions of dollars into the Bahamian economy.

We noted the Public Relations value of the victory of the Golden Girls in the 1999 World Championships and the Olympic Games, and most recently the value of the victory of the Golden Knights at the London Olympic Games.

The Bahamas will be able to see our athletes who the world considers great right at home. We will be able to see and cheer our athletes on to success when the world is trying to defeat them.

The entire Bahamas would wish to be there when The Golden Knights take on the USA and the World one more time.

There are numerous opportunities for Bahamian vendors and others to ensure that most of the expenditure stays in The Bahamas.

Most importantly is the opportunity for Bahamians from every walk of life to bond together to do good things and for the entire nation to feel good about it.

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