Will Rogers, an American actor in the early 20th century mentioned, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This first impression that I will make reference to in this article has everything to do with the Bahamian Government, under the guidance of the Minister of Youth and Sport, alongside Athletics’ governing body International Amateur Athletic Association (IAAF), sponsors and local organizations. When all was said and done, the efforts of the government had made the dreams of many students/athletes a reality over the past five weeks. Not getting a second chance would be the outgoing class of 2015.
As a resident of The Bahamas with a different nationality, I have been very impressed with the investments that the Government has implemented for the youth of the country through sports. The opportunities in this field are endless, and without having some form of exposure, chances can be vaporized.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How the Bahamian Government has allowed some athletes of the country to feel over the past five weeks, is as many of them have said, “indescribable.”
Think about this...High Schools’ National Championships, High Schools’ National Relays, and IAAF World Relays. Hotel accommodations were provided by the All-Inclusive Breezes Resort for The High Schools’ Relays and the world’s famous Atlantis for the other two events. Air travel and meals were also a part of the package. I found myself asking the question, where else have I ever seen or heard of a gesture like this being initiated by the country’s government? As much as I tried there was only one answer to such, The Commonwealth of the Bahamas. In excess of eight hundred students were catered to from the various family islands during the three events.
One would have had to be in the hotels at Breezes and Atlantis to have witnessed the level of excitement, thrills and disbelief demonstrated by the students, living the lifestyles that of professional athletes. The Government of The Bahamas and the respective associations must be commended for the invaluable experiences bestowed on these young athletes in a manner they would not have had otherwise.
Too often, due to political affiliations, the stupendous job being done by the ruling government is overlooked or unfortunately taken for granted. We have been taught to have a grateful heart, which leads to “giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” Thus, Bahamians young, old, and expatriates alike must praise the Minister for involving the youth in recent athletic events that will forever change their lives. The hopes of many were heightened, the unreal now is presented in their memories are surreal yet quite real, discouragements have instantly transformed to endless motivation, and “that was” has become “now is.”
Fast forward to the week leading up to the 2nd edition of the IAAF World Relays. The venue? The newly built state of the art Thomas A. Robinson 15,000 seat stadium. Who were the competitors? Over 700 of the world’s best track athletes, led by the man himself, the Legend, The Bolt of Lightning, the greatest sprinter of all times, the World’s fastest human, current Triple World record holder.........USAIN St. LEO BOLT. Also, there were the likes of a very strong contingent from both USA and Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya, France, and our home town favorites-- The Bahamas.
May 2, 2015, was now here. The Atlantis was the venue designated as the Athletes’ Village. With eyes wide opened, Rashad Burnside, an athlete of Bishop Michel Eldon School asked, “coach, you sure we staying at the same hotel as Usain Bolt? The immediate response was, “if this is the village, there is no doubt about that.” The expression following was priceless to say the least.
The lobby was buzzing with excitement as one elite athlete to the next came in view of everyone. Everyone had in their possession an electronic gadget ready for any picture with the superstars of Track and Field. Many were left in a state of awe being up close and personal with their idols. Screams of delight were transcending through the lobby. As a photo was captured, the next second the popular social media tools were evidence of the moment.
Standing, waiting patiently to be checked in, suddenly there was an uproar. Uproar in the sense that it became almost chaotic. There he was, all of six feet five inches, being escorted by security forces, the one whom many have dreamt of seeing-Usain. Students were rushing just to get a glimpse, snapping every possible shot they could have gotten and following behind as far as they were allowed. For a while, these were the sounds heard, I saw him, I got a picture, tell me I am not dreaming, this is the best day of my life, I can’t believe I actually saw him, he is so tall, etc....the day was never the same after for many of the students. All their conversations were centered around who they took photos with and who they spoke with or who they looking forward to meeting.
To fully understand the significance of meeting your idol, tears were flowing down the cheeks of Tanajah, when she realized that she was standing in the presence of Alison Felix. The stars of the sports made the occasion very memorable for these young Bahamians, always willing to pose for the camera, sign autographs or just be available for a conversation.
Some students who represented Bishop Michael Eldon at the event were asked, “what would you say to the Bahamian government for providing this life-changing experience for you as an athlete?” The responses were are follows:
Rashad: ‘First, I would like to say thanks to the Government, which was considered an honor being in the same environment as the greats of the sport.”
Daj: “I would like to say thank you for such opportunity, one that not many athletes would have had.”
Quannisha Marshall: “It was an awesome opportunity being able to see and communicate with all the professional athletes at the event. This would not have been possible if it was not for the Government and I want to say a big thank you.” The young athlete went further by saying she hopes and prays that the Government would continue investing in the youth and their talents.
The country, organizing committee, and officials staged a grand event that can be compared to any held on the Track & Field calendar anywhere in the world. As young ambassadors of this beautifully unique archipelago of more than 700 islands, embracing each moment for these young Bahamian athletes was a proud highlight.
When asked how they felt as young Bahamians, with the country playing host to the elites of the sport, the athletes felt pride of significant magnitude.
Daniel Lafleur: “As a Bahamian, it was fabulous seeing such a small nation as ours welcoming and graciously hosting the powerhouse nations of Track & Field. Bahamas was amazing and we did an excellent job pulling the event off.” He was most encouraged by the fact that, being at the event opened his eyes to the lifestyles of the professional athletes, lifestyles that will motivate him to work harder to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
Being escorted by the traffic police after the event back to the athletes’ village was a ride many of the young athletes described as “a cloud nine experience.”
Being on the stage as the elites gave the young Bahamian athletes a chance to capture moments that they will cherish for a lifetime. Latevia, was hoping to relish in the moment with the meeting of DeeDee Trotter, which for her would have been a dream come true. That dream did become a reality, and she described the American quarter miler as a beautiful person on both the outside and inside. Dajonae was over the moon when sharing her photo moment with eight times World Champion and four times Olympic Champion Alison Felix. Her smiles were beaming from cheek to cheek reliving the occasion.
One of those athletes from the class of 2015 who felt quite privileged getting this opportunity, was Jonathan. When the announcements came that the event would be taking a back seat to accommodate preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, his first outburst was, “Thank you God, I feel lucky seeing that next year I will not be in high school.” That sentiment I am certain was shared by all the outgoing seniors of the various schools.
The Bahamas and all Bahamians should be anticipating the return of the Championships, which in two years have become a global phenomenon for the die-hearted lovers of Track and Field.
With the 2015 World Championship to be held in Beijing this Summer, followed by the Greatest sporting event on earth (Summer Olympic Games), to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the world will be watching with bated breath.
Whilst millions will be watching the stars on show, our young Bahamian athletes and others who were at the Thomas A. Robinson stadium May 2-3, 2015 for the 2nd IAAF World Relays, can say that they have seen these elite athletes in person and in action. That is indeed a privilege. Again, THANK YOU to all the organizations, especially the Bahamian Government and The IAAF for what will forever be THE MOST BAHAMAZING EXPERIENCE YET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
~ Oscar Dixon
Published Thursday, May 21, 2015