The History of the BOC - (Formally "The Bahamas Olympic Association")
The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) celebrated its 50th anniversary by paying tribute to Bahamian Olympians who have placed the nation comfortably in the annals of world sporting history. Like all great stories, it all began many years ago – the catalyst was two people with big dreams.
In 1948, two young men from The Bahama Islands qualified to participate in the Games of the XIV Olympiad in London. These Games were the first Olympics to be televised, though few people at the time owned television sets. The Games ceremonies were officially opened by His Majesty Kind George VI, and the young men, Durward Knowles and Sloane Farrington represented the country of Great Britain. As a result of their outstanding performance at those Games, it was decided that upon their return home, the time had come for the formation of an Olympic Association for The Bahama Islands.
The Olympic dream has not only been about performing in the Olympic arena, it has been about performing to the best of one's ability in any sporting arena. Take for example the young Thomas A. Robinson, who travelled solo to the British Empire Games in Cardiff, Wales in 1954. He returned home with the country's first track medal.
At the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games in Kingston, Jamaica, Robinson captured the gold in the 100m, and a relative newcomer would represent the country at these games and win our first bronze field medal – Perry G. Christie.
Several years after his initial Olympic appearance, Durward Knowles would team up with Cecil Cooke to become known as the country's first Golden Boys for their sailing victory during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. The echoes of this golden moniker would ring in the ears of the nation again at the end of the century. During these games in Japan, young Thomas Robinson would be remembered for becoming the country's first track finalist at the Olympic level.
Undoubtedly the country was most successfully represented in the area of sports, at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, where seven athletes captured six medals
Quite a few people would be surprised to hear of the country's Olympic wrestling team. Robert Nihon and his father Alexis who travelled to Mexico City in 1968 to compete as the first Bahamian wrestling team.
More than 50 years after the formation of the Olympic Association, a Bahamian would again be described as "golden." At the Sydney Olympic Games in Australia, before more than 3.7 billion viewers, the Bahamas women's 400 meter relay team raced toa gold medal finish and into the minds and hearts of sports enthusiasts worldwide.
This latest accomplishment on their part established further the country's world class status in the discipline of track and field, and solidified a standard of Bahamian Olympic achievement set five decades earlier.
When one speaks of those 2000 Olympics, one must not forget the stellar performance of the men's 400 meter relay team. They may have missed the gold medal by a hair's breadth, but they brought back the silver in one of the most highly contested events in recent Games. This performance was certainly golden in the minds of many.
The Bahamas Olympic Association is still hoping to see The Bahamas represented in one of the team sports like basketball or football, at the Olympic level. There is the feeling that we may have stood a good chance for the 1992 Olympics but for one or two factors that didn't quite work out in the end. The intention is that this will not be allowed to happen again. History was made when in 1992 Frank Garfield Rutherford, Jr. MBE who competed in three Olympic Games, won a bronze medal in the 92 Barcelona Olympic Games - becoming the first Bahamian Track and Field Olympic medalist.
Since that first Olympic experience shared by Sir Durward and Sloane Farrington, the founding members of the
Bahamas Olympic Association have, through their efforts many years ago, left a legacy upon which today's Association members continue to nurture and sustain the local Olympic movement.
Throughout the past 50 years, members have sought out Bahamians not only with athletic talent, but those who carry within the spirit of the ideal Olympian, a spirit of the highest ideals and boundless determination balanced by a sense of belonging to the brotherhood of man. All energies have been directed toward ensuring that these elite athletes have been afforded every opportunity for success at the Olympic Games. Much of the Association's efforts have also been directed toward rallying financial support from our community so that our country is represented at all major sporting events regionally and internationally.
The Olympic Games is the greatest sporting event in the world As the global Olympic body begins its latest promotional campaign which invites the world to celebrate the core values upon which the Olympic movement is founded, The Bahamas Olympic Association has begun a celebration of its own. The Association is looking back over the past half century of hard work and perseverance. They are celebrating their numerous successes, and distilling the less than stellar moments to extract the lessons therein. They are making plans for their future. Thanks to their efforts other Bahamian athletes of world class standards like Eldece Clarke, Dr. Timothy Barrett, Bradley Cooper, Shonell Ferguson, Danny Smith, Mike Sands, Stephen Hanna and Allan Ingraham have been able to participate in the ultimate multinational sporting event.
The Association's fourth and current President, Sir Arlington Butler can be considered the country's keeper of the Olympic flame. Throughout his tenure, which began in 1972, Sir Arlington has been active at many levels of the International Olympic Organization, working within The Bahamas and the region so that athletes with Olympic potential receive the benefit of good training as well as the best in training equipment and facilities. Sir Arlington looks back at the efforts of the founding members and acknowledges that through their belief in certain ideals The Bahamas Olympic Association was formed. "The eight founding members were Sir Durward Knowles, Sir Gerald Cash, A.F. Adderley, James Robertson, Godfrey Higgs, Chris Brown, Eustace Myers, and Jamaican Sir Herbert McDonald. Eustace Myers was the catalyst who brought about this entire concept.
At the time, Jamaica had an Olympic Association, and Myers had a relationship with Sir Herbert McDonald of Jamaica. They were able to get things in motion. Myers was an officer and a good contributor to the Olympic movement. To him we owe a debt of gratitude." Sir George Roberts served as the Association's first president, beginning in 1952.
Sir Arlington is also reflecting on the growth the organisation has achieved over the past 50 years. He has high hopes for its future achievements and its continued involvement in the development of Bahamian society. He recalls a moment that launched the desire to further develop the Association. "The first time we competed under the auspices of The Bahamas Olympic Association was in 1952 in Helsinki, in sailing. Mr. Eustace Myers was the chef de mission in charge of the team. The team included Sir Durward Knowles, Sloane Farrington, Kenneth Albury, Godfrey Higgs, Basil Kelly and Basil McKinney." It was at these Games that Sir Durward Knowles and Sloane Farrington won the country's first bronze medal in the Star Class sailing event.
"So here it is, we started out as a small organisation with one competitive sport – yachting. Now we have world class athletes in the disciplines of tennis, basketball, swimming, softball, boxing, athletics and sailing. Imagine having track people that are recognised and are household names around the world. To have been the only country in the world with four female athletes that ran under 11 seconds in 2000. These accomplishments can only be attributable to association coaches, parents and support structures, and the athletes' sacrifices over the years that contribute to these kinds of results."
The Bahamas Olympic Association is responsible for funding athletes' travel not only to the Olympics, but also to the Central American and Caribbean Games, the Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games. Sir Arlington has acknowledged that the Association has received invaluable support from the government, local businesses and the generosity of private citizens from the beginning such as Eustace Myers, Sir Durward Knowles, and Alexis Nihon. Well known attorney and politician, the Hon. Paul Adderley served for many years as secretary to the association. Sir Gerald Cash also gave generously of his time and finances, serving for many years as the Association's Vice President under the first president. After his presidency, Dr. Norman Gay was a key member of the executive, feeling that it would have been unfair to have deprived the association of his
A successful funding drive to finance the 2000 Olympics was spearheaded by Wendall Jones, Al Jared and Franklyn Wilson. "I am proud to say that The Bahamas has been represented at every major Games since 1975."
In addition, the local Association sees to it that coaches and other support staff receive continuous training. "We feel proud of what we have done for the benefit of sports in this area – in arranging high level courses and ensuring the upkeep of government athletic facilities. We intend to continue to do this."
The Association is also proud of its facilitation of athletic subventions, sponsored in part by the International Olympic Committee. "We try to have in hand sufficient funds to send a team in advance, so that we never disappoint an athlete. This commitment is supported by the fact that the International Olympic Committee also funds six athletes from each participating country for each Games.
"We have been fortunate to have government grants, the benefit of our savings, and the donations from private citizens. In the early days some committee members took out mortgages to fund some of our teams. This speaks to the level of commitment on the part of some of our Association members. Fortunately at present we are in the black. The people who are there are committed because they belive they can help the development of the country in a
"We had an unfortunate incident in 1966, on the way to Puerto Rico. A basketball team was selected and promised the opportunity to travel. They were at the airport and were unable to travel because of lack of funds. I promised myself at that time, along with other committee members, that we'd never let that happen to another team. We worked until we got ourselves into the black and on sound financial footing. I have the kind of determination that I would go door to door to raise money if it came to that. The athlete must never be concerned about whether or not he's going. Once he qualifies to compete, he ought to be able to go." Sir Arlington says that for him the Olympics have been a source of several unforgettable moments. "The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was notable simply because no one expected The Bahamas to emerge with the silver medal in the relay event."
He was also present in Sydney when the legendary Golden Girls made history. He remembers that there were so many leaders of the sport world expecting to see the Americans beat the small countries. For him this victory was a special moment. "When we heard the anthem played and the flag floating over the stadium, that was a fantastic experience. These athletes have brought the country a lot of glory."
As the Bahamas Olympic Association marks this milestone in its growth, Sir Arlington sees the Association establishing more programmes and assisting in the building of better athletic facilities in the Family Islands.
"I don't believe people should rely entirely on the government for this. They can only do so much financially. So the financing must come from the community, and from the individuals who are involved." He urges all Bahamians to remember the purpose of the Olympic Games. "The concept of the Olympic movement is, after all for the benefit and glorification of sports."