Carifta on track despite Coronavirus threat
Donna Raynor, president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association is confident that the coronavirus threat will not disrupt the staging of the Carifta Games in five weeks time.
The possible health threat to Bermuda by the virus, which was first detected in December, has been hitting headlines worldwide.
It is something that has not gone unnoticed by the local organising committee of the Games which will be staged on April 10 to 13 and could involve more than 600 athletes and coaches from 27 Caribbean countries, along with supporters from various islands.
“We had an LOC meeting on Monday and our security officer Lyndon Raynor, who sits on our committee, brought it up, about what procedures will be put in place, where we will talk about what is going to happen once the athletes arrive,” Raynor said.
“Fortunately for us, most of the athletes are coming in from the Caribbean and flying in on charters, not flying through the United States.
“That's a good thing as so far we haven't heard any incidents of the coronavirus in any of the Caribbean countries.
“We're just really keeping our fingers crossed that we can get through the next couple of weeks and that Carifta is on.
“I'm hoping it won't be watered down where some countries can come and some countries can't.
“I just want to have the event, we've put a lot of work into it and are ready to go. Hopefully we can get Carifta off the ground.”
The spread of the virus has put this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, in jeopardy, while the International Triathlon Union confirmed this week that the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda, scheduled for the weekend after Carifta, will go ahead as planned.
“We just got notice this morning that the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships that Sean Trott is supposed to be going to, has been postponed until October [17th],” Raynor said on the event that was scheduled for March 29 in Poland.
Raynor, however, is optimistic the 49th Carifta Games, which Bermuda is hosting for a fifth time, will still be on.
Just last week the lines were put down on the re-laid 400-metre track and next weekend the BNAA will host a two-day trial meet which will be the final opportunity for athletes to reach qualifying standards ahead of the March 16 deadline.
“My comfort is the athletes are coming from the Caribbean and so far we seem to be okay in that area.
“Let's hope it stays that way in the next four or five weeks,” Raynor added.
“As of now, all systems are go for Carifta, the countries are having their final trials this weekend and next weekend and we're all moving ahead as if it is going to take place.
“We've got to keep our eyes and ears open in the next couple of weeks to what happens.”
Raynor has been up to the stadium to see the lines on the track and is looking forward to the local athletes getting on the new track for the first time next weekend.
“As soon as you saw those numbers down on the track, you knew we are pretty much ready to go,” she said, referring to the lane numbers at the finish line.
“We are having our trials next weekend which will be the first time that the athletes will have run on this track. Fortunately, we were able to send them overseas to a few meets and I'm really pleased.
“We had another qualifier yesterday, high jumper Amelia Othman, who qualified at her school sports.”
Raynor admits that the number of athletes representing Bermuda may not be as high as the 2012 Games when a team of 55 represented the island. She was president of the BNAA that year and will be marking ten years in the post later this year.
“We will have some leeway because it is here, but we can't go crazy and have 60 or 70 athletes just because it will be in Bermuda,” she said.
“We still have to be selective and will look at the results from next weekend and what results they have had at these meets.
“Some have improved their performances every time they have competed, so we have to put that into perspective as well.
“We still want the athletes to be competitive, not be out there and totally outclassed just because it is in Bermuda. “Next Monday [March 16], we have to have the team selected and put into the system. We have been very strict with our deadlines for the other countries and have to be just as strict on ourselves.”
Raynor added: “Two weeks ago, Bahamas purchased 100 tickets for their spectators, Jamaica has purchased tickets along with Turks and Caicos, BVI, Barbados.
“Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, has already sent me his itinerary and will be here as well as the president of NACAC, Mike Sands.
“Everybody is excited as Bermuda has a new track, so let's see if we have another Usain Bolt in the making,” she said, referring to the Jamaican sprinter's record performance here in 2004.
“Hopefully, this coronavirus leaves us alone and lets us move ahead with our plans!”