Freddie Evans grateful for successful Bermuda Games execution
Last weekend’s USATF Bermuda Games proved to be a timely event for track and field in Bermuda after the island missed out on hosting the Carifta Games for the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bermuda National Athletics Association and partners The Bermuda Tourism Authority had just five weeks to put together the first-class event that was televised live by NBC.
Freddie Evans, the BNAA president, was the guest speaker at the Hamilton Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon, sharing with the club members how the event went off without a hitch in front of about 5,000 spectators.
“In assuming the role as BNAA president I had the idea, if not dream, of trying to host a professional meet as a way of jump-starting our sport after Covid-19 hibernation and the loss of the Carifta Games,” said Evans, who took over as president from Donna Raynor last December.
“As you can imagine that was a tremendous setback for our organisation and for our athletes. Two years without track, the children will find something else to do. As an organisation we probably lost about 30 per cent of our group.
“The general secretary, Mia Bean, and I went through the process of making applications to our regional office, Nacac, and we were awarded a bronze meet, a smaller meet with athletes who haven’t had the chance to make a gold or silver meet but are still trying to get the opportunity to go to bigger and better Games.”
Things quickly began to develop and change with the meet brought forward a few days from its original date and elevated to a Gold event.
“Ironically our meet was awarded for today, April 12, but somewhere along the line I got a call from a gentleman name Robert Wagner of Astra Group who said ‘Freddie, USATF is interested in asking you to host their meet and you and BNAA to partner with them,” Evans explained.
“Why us? Fortunately for us, unfortunately for others, the Gold meet they were planning on the 10th was cancelled and USATF had a window of opportunity that they were looking to fill and we had the opportunity to know Hazel Clark.”
Clark, the BTA Director of Sports and Business Development, is a three-time Olympian, competing for the United States in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games in the 800 metres.
Her contacts in the sport, Evans admits, was key to getting the event to Bermuda.
“I got the chance to meet the COO of USATF and he made it abundantly clear, ‘we’re here for two reasons; one, as you all may know Hazel Clark is a three-time Olympian, she’s a member of USATF and is USATF royalty’,” Evans said.
“They were excited about the opportunity to come back and work with Hazel and unbeknown to me, prior to my call with Robert Wagner, Hazel had given us – Mia, myself and the BNAA team – a resounding endorsement.
“Hazel said ‘you could run the meet, you and Mia will make this all happen’ and because she gave us the endorsement, we’re here.
“I’m eternally indebted to Hazel for her support. We would have cancelled out on the April 12 meet because we were having trouble trying to find support. It was all Hazel’s connections that made it happen.”
Evans admits it also would not have been possible without the support of about 70 volunteers who helped to execute the meet. The weather conditions were a factor in preventing record times in the races, but Dage Minors’s third-place finish in the 1,500 metres was certainly a highlight for the local supporters who also saw Jah-Nhai Perinchief, Tre Houston and Lamont Marshall compete.
“We held the Carifta Games and were successful but to produce an athletic event/television show with all the synchronisation, all the movement, all the assurances of making sure people are in the right place at the right time and getting all the right camera angles was a new animal to us. But we made it happen.”
Evans also gives Clarke credit for the idea of the children’s races ahead of the main event.
“We came up with the Fastest Kid on the Rock’ where we had different age groups running different distances,” Evans added. “We did the preliminaries on Friday night and the fastest advanced to run on Saturday at the stadium.
“We have a support base of volunteers who helped to officiate, and every official on that track, except for the international starter, was Bermudian.
“The was also a team down on the north field as the athletes warmed up. The National Sports Centre led by Craig Tyrrell and James Pace could not have been more supportive.”
Evans also added that the meet would not have been a success without the estimated 5,000 fans who came out to support it.
“Bermuda showed up and showed out,” he stated. “I’m of the opinion that the audience’s enthusiasm helped the athletes forget about the inclement weather.
“They were running into about a six mile an hour headwind and because of the crowd’s enthusiasm, still produced quality times.”
Evans is hopeful of producing another meet in the future.
“We hope to do this again, the athletes enjoyed the environment, USATF was pleased with the organisation, NBC was pleased with the delivery, so we are under consideration,” he revealed.
“We didn’t fail at anything so we have a good chance of bringing it back. On the horizon is the Bermuda National Athletics Championships in July and we’ll bring in athletes to help our athletes do special things at that event.
“Track is back!”