The Bahamas will host the third edition of the IAAF World Relays in 2017 as track and field officials hailed the high-octane, two-day event as an overwhelming innovative success.
Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), confirmed Friday that the World Relays would switch to a biennial event, but with open bidding for potential hosts after 2017.
“Last year was a wonderful, successful event, a colourful festival of athletics which was topped by three world records,” Diack said, adding that the presence of Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt was a coup for the event.
“Success is a powerful magnet and we are therefore delighted that the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, will be competing here.”
Diack added: “The creation of the IAAF world relays is the latest example of athletics’ continuing evolution and the IAAF is especially pleased that this exciting new competition has found a natural home in the Bahamas, a nation with a rich and successful history in the relays.
“So we are therefore delighted that the Bahamas will also be the host of the next edition which will take place in two years’ time in 2017.”
The 2014 edition of the World Relays certainly caught the imagination of the local population, a sell-out stadium revelling in two evening sessions of top-class track entertaintment.
This year, Bolt headlines more than 600 athletes from 40 countries racing for a total prize purse of $1.4 million, with more on offer for world records.
Bolt, who has anchored Jamaica to two Olympic titles and three world golds in the 4x100m relay, gave his vote of confidence to the World Relays, saying it was a time for teammates to bond in a quintessentially individual sport.
“It’s always fun, I really enjoy them,” the six-time Olympic gold medallist said.
“I always look forward to the end of the championships and the relays. And now I can actually come and race just relays! It’s just wonderful for me.”
American Allyson Felix, the most successful woman in track relay history with five world and three Olympic golds, reiterated Bolt’s words.
“Relays are so much fun because track is an individual sport and we spend so much time focusing on ourselves,” she said.
“So it’s so much fun to be part of a team, come with my teammates. It’s not much pressure, you get to come together and have one goal, so I love it.”
The World Relays were a crucial innovative step that the IAAF had to take, according to federation ambassador Frankie Fredericks, the former Namibian sprint star who said baton-passing was “something special”.
“With the IAAF we have to take chances, this was a unique chance for us to do something different, something we had never done beofre, to go out of our comfort zone,” the four-time Olympic silver medallist said.
“This is one of the events we’ve created to say ‘hey, we can take a chance with this event, let’s start something new’… we took the chance with the Bahamas and it was an exceptional success last year.
“With the likes of Usain and Felix here, it’s going to become better because people now realise that it’s serious.
“We need to take more chances like that in our sport.”
That view was echoed by Sebastian Coe, vying with fellow federation vice-president Sergey Bubka to replace the outgoing Diack.
The World Relays, Coe said, are an “event which has caught the imagination of the public in the region and is becoming a symbol of the innovation I believe athletics needs to embrace to ensure a vibrant future”.