(Reuters) - More than just prize money and medals will be in the offering in two of the most popular relays at next month's IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.
The top eight finishers in the men's and women's 4x100 and 4x400 meters relays at the May 2-3 Nassau meeting will qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games, according to the IAAF.
"We needed to ensure that the first years of the IAAF World Relays were a success, adding incentive to attract the world's best relay teams," IAAF Competitions Director Paul Hardy told Reuters via email on Thursday in explaining one of the reasons for the decision.
Competition was another.
"Outside of the IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games, the IAAF World Relays brings together the world's best relay teams guaranteeing the best competition and therefore, ensuring a credible way to qualify for the Olympic Games," Hardy said.
The relays, the latest in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) global competitions, got off to a rousing start last May with three world records.
World's fastest man Usain Bolt will be joining the field this year, ensuring even more interest.
The IAAF used last year's relays as the qualifier for eight of the 16 spots in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays at August's world championships in Beijing. The same process will be used for the Rio de Janeiro Games, Hardy noted.
The other eight spots will be allocated based on time.
The world relays are expected to attract more than 600 athletes with men's and women's competition in five disciplines: 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m and the distance medley relays.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)