By 1976, the Bahamas had only ever won two Olympic medals in all of its history and nothing since 1964. Both medals were in yachting, considered the sport of the upper crust in the country.
Athletics and the Bahamas had long been more than just a casual relationship. Very early on, the rise of professional sportsmanship was seen as the best international advertisement that a small emerging country, like the 700 islands and cays, could ever have. “In an independent nation like the Bahama, BOA vice president Rudy Moultie explained in a 1976 interview with the Miami Times, “the Olympics are very, very important.” This view, on the importance of the games, was reinforced by the then Minister of Tourism, Clement Maynard. “The world should know Maynard seemed to be saying that there’s more to the Bahamas than tax-haven banks and Goombay Summer.”
The first Olympic Games, after the momentuous 1973 state independence, came very quickly, in 1976. With the pressures of the economy, nation building and healing the fractures created within the country because of independence, the Bahamas was scrambling to raise money and garner enough participants to make a decent showing at the Montreal Games.
Controversy arose over the inclusion of an athlete, a hurdler, in the Bahamian contingent bound for the Olympics. Danny Smith, then 24, was born in Alice Town, Bimini and had only ever competed in just six track meets in the Bahamas. At issue for some was that Danny Smith left the Bahamas and became a resident of Florida since the age of two. Although he had never given up Bahamian passport, he had lived in the US continuously ever since. At age 24, and with the 1976 Olympics fast approaching. Smith was invited by the government to compete once again for the Bahamas. While then Minister of Tourism Clement Maynard seemed to defend the issue of someone essentially resident in another country, competing for the Bahamas, his reasoning was not accepted by all. By offering that many Bahamian athletes train or are in school for up to eight months out the year, so Smith competing was not that unusual, Maynard did not directly address the residency issue.
Danny Smith had already competed for the country in the 1972 Olympics in Montreal but failed to qualify. As 1976 approached, and with little qualifying talent available at home, the Bahamas government did offer tremendous support by giving Smith a job with leave of absence to train in Florida. In January 1976, Smith was given a job in the Ministry of Tourism office in Miami of which he said he hoped to repay the favour.
“I think I can come in second place ,” he says.
Smith noted how disappointing the responses had been for sponsorship from various businesses in the Bahamas. “I wrote to 22 business places in Freeport and Nassau trying to her (financial) support and only one answered me ( a hotel in Freeport). I’m going to be representing the Bahamas, yet they wouldn’t support me.”
Smith arrived in the Bahamas just eight days before the flight to Canada. It was predicted that Smith would carry the new Bahamian flag, for the first time, in Olympic competition. “For a man who has lived all but two years of his life in Florida, that would be quite an honour, however paradoxical it may seem.”
The Miami News (Miami, Florida) Friday July 16, 1976