Wed | Jun 19, 2019

A host of issues - Can the National Stadium be upgraded in time for prospective World Relays?

Published:Tuesday | August 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMAkino Ming/Staff Reporter
An aerial view of the National Stadium on the final day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships in March 2015.

In less than two weeks, Jamaica should know whether it will host the IAAF World Relays next year, as the international body is scheduled to make a decision on who has won the bid to host the event.

But if the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association's (JAAA) bid is successful, it could pose some challenges for the 2019 athletics season's calendar as the National Stadium, which hosts the majority of local athletics meets, would have to undergo refurbishing to meet the required standards to host the international competition.

The meet, which was previously hosted by The Bahamas, is scheduled for the second weekend in May, a couple months after the athletics season usually kicks into high gear with meets such the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) and The Gibson/McCook Relays.

Major Desmon Brown, general manager of Independence Park Limited, which manages the National Stadium, told The Gleaner that he is still unaware of some changes that need to be made in order to meet the standard that is required by the International Association of Athletics Federations to host the meet, and he is not sure when work to upgrade the stadium will begin.

"We have been having preliminary meetings with the JAAA and they are coming back to us with a list of things that are required. So until I get that list from JAAA, I would not be in a position to specifically indicate some of the things that we have to get done," Brown said.

"We know things like the media centre we have to do something about it. We would have to repair the track and make sure that it is up to standard, but the exact details, I am not in a position to say. For example, how big the media centre has to be. All of that information we would have to get from the JAAA."

He continued: "We don't know when we will start, but we are hoping to begin as soon as it is confirmed that we will host the meet."


Ready for Champs


However, JAAA President Dr Warren Blake believes the stadium will be ready before Champs comes around.

"This won't affect Champs. The improvements to the stadium, some of them were already in the pipeline and they have reached the stage where they should start by the end of the year. The last time the track in the stadium was resurfaced, it took two months, so that shouldn't take long. Some of the meets will have to be relocated, but Champs won't be affected. The aim is to have these things finished before the season really kicks in," Blake said.

"Whether we get the relays or not, the refurbishing of the stadium would affect the season and some of the other track meets will have to be held elsewhere."

When the National Stadium hosted the IAAF World Junior Championship in 2002, Champs had to be relocated to G.C. Foster College.

Blake was also adamant that meets such as the Jamaica International Invitational Meet and the JN Racers Grand Prix would not be affected by the hosting of the relays.

"The JA Invite (Invitational) is scheduled for the first weekend in May and I am comfortable that the stadium would be ready before then," Blake said.

Earlier this year, the Bahamian government told the IAAF that it had withdrawn from hosting the relays due to financial constraints.