NACAC preparing for busy summer
Battling through this current COVID-19 environment, Mike Sands, the Bahamian president of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) said it is their intention to facilitate the advancement of athletics in this region as best as possible, moving forward with established plans and athletic competitions this year.
The CARIFTA Games is now set for the latest it has ever been held in a calendar year – August 13-15 at the Bermuda National Sports Centre in Hamilton, Bermuda. The NACAC Under-18 (U18) and Under-23 (U23) Championships is still on the table, tentatively set for July 9-11, at the Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St. George’s, Grenada. Both are high on the priority list for NACAC, but the ever-present nature of COVID-19 leads to uncertainty in the staging of the two meets.
Also on the agenda for this summer are the Olympic Games, set for July 23 to August 8, in Tokyo, Japan, the World Athletics Under-20 (U20) Championships, scheduled for August 17-22, in Nairobi, Kenya, and the 2021 Junior Pan American Games, which will be held September 9-19, in Cali, Colombia.
As it relates to CARIFTA, if it is not held in mid-August, it’s likely that it will be canceled for the second year in a row.
“Well, for now, CARIFTA is set for mid August. We have cautious optimism that the world will be in a better place as it relates to COVID-19 by then and the CARIFTA Games will go on,” said Sands. “It would be very difficult to see where else it could fit. We’ve looked at all of the available scenarios for CARIFTA and the last hope was pushing it to where it is now. There is no other place on the calendar where it could be
feasibly held without interrupting any major event.
“This is the first time that CARIFTA would be held so late in the year and the second time it won’t be held over the Easter weekend. What this has done is cause us to review whether or not the Easter date is the most ideal date for CARIFTA or whether or not CARIFTA, as the premier junior event in our area, should not fall toward the end of the season like most major championships. This is something that we will discuss further at the NACAC Congress in July. With the NACAC Under-18 and Under-23 Championships, we are challenged with the position of COVID as it relates to the staging of that meet and seeking sponsorship.”
Another event NACAC is looking at is the inaugural New Life Invitational, listed on the global athletics calendar as a World Athletics Continental Tour (WACT) Silver Level Series meet, and planned for May 28-29 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium right here in Nassau, The Bahamas. Sands said that national protocols as a part of the Emergency Powers Orders (COVID-19) are critical in determining whether or not the meet will take place and at what level.
“We’re hoping that The Bahamas looks at this meet favorably and become a partner with us as a host,” said Sands. “This is set to be one of the premier events of NACAC, giving all of the top athletes in this area an opportunity to take part in a quality meet without having to go to Europe. The athletes are anxious to participate. The plan is to offer prize money and there will also be world ranking points for the athletes.”
Sands said for any of the meets to come to fruition, protocols and guidelines of the host country would have to be respected and followed. Meet organizers and staff have the responsibility of enforcing that the protocols are carried out.
“We understand that everyone wants to get back to athletics, but there are certain restrictions that have to be adhered to and we do not question them or challenge them,” said Sands. “The protocols of every jurisdiction can’t be superseded. They are very important and have to be respected. As an area association, we have to comply and ensure that our members are complying. Our guidelines have to mesh with the guidelines of the respective countries that are hosting the meets. For CARIFTA, we communicate with Bermuda every day, closely watching their situation.”
Currently, the current COVID climate in the country allows for no fans in stadiums at sporting events. Sports events, on the whole, are only allowed with written permission from the competent authority.
“I believe we have to look at events and say if we allow gatherings of 30-40 people at weddings and funerals, how is it that we could not permit 2,000-3,000 people in a stadium that holds 15,000 and manage social distancing accordingly?” asked Sands. “What is the difference between an outdoor event in a capacity of 15,000 with no spectators and an indoor event with limited spacing and you allow 30-40 to attend. If we could get some clarity on that, that will help us understand why these things are happening. There needs to be better explanation to the interested parties to help us understand situations like that.”
Sands said that NACAC produces a weekly newsletter, designed to keep the 36 member federations informed as to what is taking place at an administrative level on a regular basis as well as updates on competitions, meetings, seminars and negotiations for contracts to name a few of the items on the agenda. The information is also posted on the NACAC website, and is distributed to the member federations on a regular basis, making them totally aware of every event and item that is on the table.