by Rogan Smith

The government will spend $3 million to $5 million to host the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Relays next year and an additional $3 million to $5 million the following year, according to Youth, Sports & Culture Minister Dr. Daniel Johnson.

According to the minister, 700 of the best athletes from around the world will participate in the two-day event, which will be held on May 24 and May 25.

Up to 500 jobs and opportunities will be available as a result, he said.

Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Monday that his government has agreed to underwrite the costs of the events.

“You’re looking at between $3 million and $5 million per event in terms of setting it up properly,” he said.

“We have a return on investment only about two to one, so we’re expecting the economic impact to be at least double that for us as a country. The advertising impact of this for two days to be on major networks around the world, carried by 52 countries is about a similar amount. So we really have done the economic work behind the scenes and it’s a fairly good investment and the returns should be impressive.”

Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations (BAAA) President Mike Sands said he is pleased that The Bahamas will host an event of this magnitude.

“On behalf of the BAAA we are very excited that the IAAF had the confidence in the BAAA and The Bahamas to award this historic event to The Bahamas. A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes and we are now unveiling it as we speak today. Beginning today we will be moving fast forward for the event, which is scheduled to take place on May 24 and May 25 this year. We will be meeting on a regular basis as we have been to ensure that this event comes off [successfully] as a host country,” he said.

Prime Minister Christie said these events represent a “giant step” towards establishing The Bahamas as a sports tourism destination.

“We are really taking a comprehensive approach to ensuring not only that we execute the games properly, but we get Bahamians involved so that we excite the imagination of the young Bahamian – these potential athletes – and we cause them to know that one day if they work hard and train hard they will be able to perform in the stadium as they will see the best in the world next year,” he said.

Minister Johnson said some renovations will have to be carried out in advance of the event.

He also gave assurances that there would be sufficient hotels to accommodate the large crowds.