By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
MONACO — After being the inaugural host to the ground-breaking, International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Relays in 2014 and the subsequent two events in 2015 and 2017, The Bahamas has decided to forego its option to host the games in 2019 that were supposed to be held on May 11 and 12 at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium in Nassau, but will now be held at the Yokohama National Stadium, Yokohama, Japan, on the same dates.
An announcement on the IAAF’s website over the weekend confirmed this move and stated, “Japan will now host two of the biggest events on the athletics calendar in successive years after the IAAF Council voted this week to award the 2019 IAAF World Relays to Yokohama.
“Already preparing to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan will now welcome the athletics world a year earlier, when it holds the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama International Stadium on 11-12 May next year.
“After The Bahamas government confirmed that it would no longer be able to offer the financial guarantee that underpinned the event in Nassau, several member federations contacted the IAAF directly to express their interest in hosting the 2019 World Relays. Following very careful consideration, Japan was considered to be the preferred location.”
Reports from The Bahamas indicate that the new government decided not to host the 2019 World Relays due to the cost and unclear accounting and weak oversight over the previous three events, stating that cost overruns were well over what was budgeted. Further, after a cost-benefit analysis, it decided to do some internal administrative and financial tightening and would allow another country to host the Relays.
Bahamian officials did not rule out the possibility of hosting the event and other IAAF events in the future.
The move had put the IAAF in a quandary, because officials had already booked the date and time with the previous administration and were already preparing to return to The Bahamas after what they determined was a successful series of events in prior years.
However, further information sent to Caribbean News Now indicates that, while the IAAF did indeed receive much needed advertisement and profile boosts from the event, the event placed a significant debt burden on The Bahamas and there was no significant, medium to long-term boost that materialised from hosting the event, other than the short-term boost in tourism receipts for persons directly attending the event and gate-revenue for persons entering the stadium, which it is said to have not made a quarter of the returns based on the money spent on the preparation and advertising of the event.
Further in the IAAF release, president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, thanked The Bahamas for its key role in establishing the World Relays as a successful competition and welcomed Yokohama as only the second city to host the event: “I am delighted that Yokohama has stepped in to host our youngest World Athletics Series event and I am confident that they will do an outstanding job despite the short preparation period.
“Several of our member federations expressed interest in hosting the popular IAAF World Relays next year and I thank them for their efforts, which confirm the appeal of what is a very entertaining team-based competition with a unique spirit.”
The president of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, Hiroshi Yokokawa, said he was excited to invite the athletes of the world to compete in Yokohama and that “The Bahamas have left important footprints on the history of athletics by organising the IAAF World Relays for the past three editions, and it is an honour and privilege for Japan to receive the baton from them.”
With just seven months away, Yokohama will have to work at breakneck speed in order to prepare the track for competition, advise on a protocol for incoming athletes and their team members, security, accommodations for all visitors, press and media amenities and entertainment, in addition to adequate telecommunications and energy to the venue and sub-venues of the events.