Tourism minister gives thumbs up to Reggae Marathon
Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has endorsed the staging of the annual Reggae Marathon, noting that it is in keeping with efforts to promote Jamaica as a prime destination for sports tourism.
"It is a brilliant concept. It brings together two of the strongest brands in Jamaica - sports and our music. When this concept was brought together, it was a no-brainer and the ministry, from day one, has been very supportive of it. This event is a strong event and it shows the potential for sports tourism in Jamaica," he said.
He was speaking at the launch of the internationally recognised event on Wednesday at the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston.
Dr McNeill noted that the event, certified by the International Association of Athletics Federation and the Association of Marathons and Distance Races, has developed a large international following, gaining critical recognition as one of the top 10 marathon events in the world.
"This is not something that is easy to do, but they have been able to do it. It shows what is possible in Jamaica when we put our minds to doing something; and sports tourism is an area where, I believe, we have a lot of potential where we can expand, using models such as this one," he said.
More than 2,000 local and international athletes are expected to participate in the 15th staging of the event, which takes place on December 5 along the picturesque route stretching from Negril to Green Island in Westmoreland.
The race starts at Long Bay Beach Park, situated along Negril's famed seven-mile white sand beach, and racers will complete in a marathon, half-marathon and 10K.
The international runners are from 35 countries, including Canada, Belgium, Germany and the United States, and first-time participants like Saudi Arabia and Suriname.
Sponsorship director for Reggae Marathon, Diane Ellis, in noting the worldwide popularity of the marathon, informed that international participation in the event has increased 28 per cent since last year.
"The event continues to attract a great deal of international participants. The largest group which has already registered is the Reggae Runners, which comprises 433 runners and about 100 cheerleaders from various running groups across the United States," she said.