Mike Rowbottom

The athletics world is limbering up for an event which brought a new dimension to the sport last year, and which promises to create another colourful splash of entertainment and excitement over the weekend.

We are talking, clearly, about the World Relays, the format which so amply rewarded the International Association of Athletics Federations for creating it as a main season-opener to their calendar last year.

This innovative competition will take place in the recently-built 15,000-seater Thomas A Robinson stadium at Nassau, in The Bahamas. As it did last year. And as it will when it is next staged in 2017.

The offer of the 2017 event to The Bahamas was made during the 2014 World Athletics Gala in Monaco by the IAAF President Lamine Diack, who will retire this summer after almost 16 years in charge, to be replaced by either Sebastian Coe or Sergey Bubka.

It is an unprecedented occurrence in global athletics for the first three editions of any major championships to be held in any one place.

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Sergey Smelyk of Ukraine (left) and Trey Kimmons of the United States in action in the 4x100m relay at last year's inaugural IAAF World Relays in Nassau ©Getty Images

Given the success of last year’s inaugural running in terms of profile and prestige, it is little surprise that the Bahamas Government has made it clear it would seize upon the chance to host the event permanently like…well, like a runner grabbing a baton.

One of the prime movers in persuading the IAAF to go ahead with this competition, and what’s more to establish it so firmly in The Bahamas, is Pauline Davis-Thompson.

She sprinted, both individually and in teams, at five Olympics, a career which culminated in her contribution to the Bahamian victory in the women’s 4x100m relay at the 2000 Sydney Games, when she was 34, having earned silver behind Marion Jones in the 200m.

Nine years later that silver turned to gold following Jones’s belated disqualification for doping offences. By that time, Davis-Thompson – who is married to former Jamaican Olympic hurdler Mark Thompson – had been a member of the IAAF Council for two years.

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Pauline Davis-Thompson, double Olympic champion and IAAF Council member for The Bahamas, has been one of the prime movers in getting the IAAF World Relays based, for three years at least, in Nassau ©Getty Images

This summer she will seek a third term of office, keener than ever to ensure that her nation continues to get its share of IAAF activity.

She recently told the Nassau Guardian: “They call me ‘The Mafia’ - my colleagues are still asking how I was able to secure three world relays for The Bahamas.

“I was persistent in pushing this event to them, and of course President Diack loves The Bahamas.

“The Bahamas’ Government now wants our country to be the home of the world relays. The IAAF has never granted any event to any single nation, so I don’t know how that will work, but we feel blessed to have had it three times in a row. That in itself is a blessing.”

As Davis-Thompson went on to observe, other nations such as China, Brazil and Qatar have already expressed an interest in becoming future hosts to the World Relays.

“The bid process might be crowded going forward,” she admitted.

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Pauline Davis-Thompson (right) takes silver behind Marioh Jones of the United States in the Sydney 2000 Olympics 200m final. Nine years later the Bahamian athlete was awarded the gold in the wake of the American's doping punishment ©Getty Images

So it’s unlikely that the World Relays will become synonymous with Nassau in the way that golf’s Masters has come to mean Augusta, or the FA Cup final - with the exception of excruciatingly drawn-out stadium construction - with Wembley.

That said, the idea of offering events and hosts an extended opportunity to get to know each other appears to be catching in athletics circles.

Before he was voted in as President of European Athletics earlier this month, Svein Arne Hansen spoke to insidethegames about a range of innovations he had in mind in the event of winning election.

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Action during the men's 4x400m final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beijing are among the cities now interested in hosting a future IAAF World Relays event ©Getty Images

Expanding on the idea floated in his manifesto, that the European Team Championships be “restructured”, he added:

“They are not working commercially. Maybe if we had it in the same city for three or four years in a row it would be a good thing.

 “Last year’s Team Championships in Braunschweig were very successful. But I watched the Team Championships in Stockholm in 2011 and the Olympic Stadium was half empty and I think that was sad.

“That is not what we want to see for a major event like the European Team Championships.”

What we want to see is what we saw in Nassau last year. Which is, a suitable-sized stadium - not cramped, not vast - filled with knowledgeable, appreciative, yes, even that most overused of words, passionate supporters, witnessing top class athletics in a diverting form.

Braunschweig “got” the European Team Championships, and took part in it in an energising and inspiring fashion. Ditto Nassau with the World Relays.

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Olympic discus champion Robert Harting, captain of the German team, celebrates victory in the 2014 European Team Championships with home fans in Braunschweig. The new European Athletics President, Svein Arne Hansen, would possibly like to see the event returning for several years to the same German hosts ©Getty Images

But then the Bahamas - as Davis-Thompson may just have reminded every IAAF Council member on a regular basis - has a special relationship with the art of getting the baton round safely and swiftly.

Of the 12 medals the Bahamas has won at the Olympics, 10 have been in athletics, and, of those, five have come in the relay.

"The Bahamas has a rich history in athletics,” says Davis-Thompson.

“We love athletics. But more than anything, we love the relays."