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Sands: ‘We don’t want CARIFTA to go past August’

March 27, 2020

Sheldon Longley

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In the view of the president of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC), Bahamian Mike Sands, they would not want to go beyond August for the hosting of the 2020 CARIFTA Games.

At this point, in the face of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, CARIFTA – the biggest and most popular annual junior athletics championships in this region – remains postponed. It is generally held over the Easter holiday weekend and has never gone beyond early May in the 49-year history of the event. The meet has never been canceled.

Sands said Bermuda remains ready to host, but the logistics of moving the event from one period to another is not an easy task. The meet was initially set for April 10-13 at the Bermuda National Sports Centre in Hamilton, Bermuda. However, due to the danger posed by the spread off the novel coronavirus, it has been postponed.

Sands said the health and well-being of the many young athletes in the region, meet officials, supporters and everyone connected with the CARIFTA Games, remains their primary concern.

“We have had discussions with the organizers and it has been suggested that in order for us to put this on, it would require the involvement of all of the major stakeholders. No decision has been made as it regards to that yet, and all I could say is that we wouldn’t want to go past August,” said Sands. “The local organizers are still set on holding it this year but [a] lot of things have to be taken into consultation before that is done. This is something that requires the involvement of member federations, athletes and coaches, and is something that requires additional discussions. Right now, we’re just taking it day by day and week by week. Salvaging some of the athletic season is certainly our hope but that depends on how quickly we could resume our lives to some normal degree, but for now, CARIFTA remains postponed.”

Sands said given the standstill on sports on the whole, there is no telling when everyday life will return to normal. A number of countries in the region, including The Bahamas, are experiencing national lockdowns, meaning all of the athletic and training venues are closed. Some athletes have chosen to continue their training privately while others have regretfully and hesitantly shut down their seasons.

“With what is going now, if CARIFTA still does take place late in the year, there is no telling what level of competition you will have because a number of athletes have shut it down. It is not out of the realm of possibility for it to be held late in the year, but we would not want to go beyond the end of August. At this time, it’s a wait-and-see game,” said Sands.

Next year is shaping up to be a huge year for sports with a number of events already postponed worldwide. It could be the first time that the Olympics and the World Athletics (WA) World Championships, formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships, are held in the same year. The WA World Indoor Championships have also been postponed to 2021.

“Obviously with scheduling, something would have to be worked out to avoid major conflicts,” said Sands. “You wouldn’t want to have those two events close together, so there has to be such a distance between them that there is no conflict. Anything is possible with planning.”

World Athletics was the only major international sporting federation calling for the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – information that former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Richard “Dick” Pound leaked on Monday. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed the postponement on Tuesday. The Olympics was originally set for July 24 to August 9, in Tokyo, Japan.

World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics taking place as planned in July and August was “neither feasible nor desirable” amid growing international concern over the COVID-19 pandemic. Major countries such as Canada and Australia had already pulled out.

“We applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern,” stated the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) in a joint statement. “We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport. The COC and CPC would like to thank our athletes, partners and the Canadian sport community for their patience and for lending us their voices during these unprecedented times.”

IOC officials tried their best to keep the games on, but heavy pressure served as a catalyst for them to swiftly announce a postponement due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 520,000 people have been infected worldwide, and there has been over 23,500 deaths. Those numbers are growing by the hour.

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