ahamas, batons and Usain Bolt
Last week, Haymarket Network’s IAAF teams jetted off to the Bahamas for the World Relays. Here, the IAAF team tell us about the trip, which included a hotel with a shark tank, local excitement and hanging out with Usain Bolt.
Imagine a sold-out stadium, multiply the noise you’d expect 15,000 fans to make times ten, add whistles, cowbells, a live Junkanoo band, fireworks and teams from over 40 nations, and you get the greatest sporting event on earth.
These were the scenes Network’s IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Editorial and Development teams experienced when they went to the Bahamas for the World Relays.
The World Relays is a new concept introduced by the IAAF and is only in its second year running. For Michelle, Social Editor of SPIKES, who grew up in an athletics-mad family, it was a dream come true when the IAAF asked whether she would mind being part of the team to cover this year’s event – held in Nassau, Bahamas. Of course she didn’t.
What makes the World Relays special is the unusual setting and the relaxed atmosphere. Although despite the atmosphere, it is still incredibly serious business for the athletes – the top eight in the traditional events automatically secure qualification for the Rio Olympics (and there’s a fair bit of prize money to be won too).
This year’s official meet hotel, the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, provided the athletes with everything they needed – even a slide that goes through a shark tank. Shame it was pouring with rain 5/7 days they were there, but it didn’t dampen the spirits.
As it turned out, SPIKES’ coverage of last year’s event made a lasting impression on the locals and so Michelle was invited to talk at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism about SPIKES’ creation of the word “BAH-MAZING’’ describing last year’s World Relays. Turns out the locals liked it so much, they branded their whole promotional campaign for this year around it and SPIKES are now very much honorary Bahamian citizens – they even made the sports
Friday saw quite the line-up arranged for the pre-meet press conference: 1996 Olympic 200m medallists Michael Johnson, Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon, followed by competing athletes including not only the man Usain Bolt himself, but also the likes of Allyson Felix, the most decorated female relay runner of all time, and local hero Olympic 4x400m champion Chris Brown.
Working with these athletes reminded the team why they love this sport so much. Michelle spent almost the entire day with Bolt and his swarms of fans. He laughed at bad jokes, made quite a few of them himself.
After the press conference, she went along for a training session with him. People often forget – even the world’s fastest man has to train. Escorted by the police, they made their way to the warm-up track. Bolt sat in the back row, headphones half on, half off, sucking a lollipop not fazed in the slightest by the speed they were going or the several potholes.
The fastest man in the world was welcomed with his own personal track. ‘Why can’t I just train on the normal track with everyone else?’ – Of course he could. And so everyone got their legs moving and did some final, vital baton exchanges.
Concept-wise, the World Relays is exactly what the sport needs, it’s short, snappy, fun – pretty much exactly what SPIKES is all about, you could say they’re a match made in heaven.
The team got exclusive insight into how athletes are preparing for races – not everyone took the Leap of Faith on the day of competition, but there certainly were a few. Some locked themselves in their rooms 100 per cent focused, while others went for training sessions at the beach. Saturday evening was the first session. The stadium was sold out and covered in Bahamian blue, yellow with two big Jamaican blocks proudly sporting their nation’s colours.
On both competition nights the teams were looking after the IAAF live blog and social media pages as well as spending a fair bit of time in the mixed zone to capture the immediate reactions from athletes after their races.
Spikes welcomed 5k new Facebook fans and more than doubled their Twitter impressions while live audio streaming of the event, a new feature we introduced this year, proved a huge success.
Network has worked with the IAAF on SPIKES Magazine for eight years. To keep up-to-date with Spikes, follow them here.