Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Good luck, Jamaica Sport!

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Chairman of Jamaica Sport Christopher Dehring (right) makes a point while Minister with responsibility for sport Natalie Neita-Headley (left), Dr Wykeham McNeill, minister of tourism and entertainment (second left), and Nicola Madden-Greig, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, look on. Dehring was speaking at the launch of Jamaica Sport at the Courtleigh Hotel last Wednesday. - File

Tony Becca, Contributor

Jamaica is strapped for cash, and despite how some people live, how some people attempt to live, and how some people behave, that is a fact, and that is why it was so good to hear of the formation of Jamaica Sport - a combination of sports, tourism, and Insport for the benefit of sport.

Jamaica also is a big name in sport, certainly not in all sports, as some people seem to believe, but definitely in track and field, and not so long ago, in cricket and boxing, and, also in football although Jamaica has been to the World Cup finals only once.

The people's love for football is so much, the participation in football is so huge, and the passion for the game, the determination to reach the top, is too great for it to be ignored as one of the country's leading sports.

Jamaica is big, really big.

Apart from parading some of the world's fastest men and women, Jamaica has the fastest woman in the world and the fastest man ever in the world, and on top of that, the country boasts many, many world champions, past and present, enough to make the world stand and stare in envy.

What better way, therefore, for the country to attempt to solve the problem of no money than by using its god-given talent in track and field, cricket, and boxing etcetera, etcetera to do so.

For years, people have been talking about it, and nothing happened. After the Beijing Olympics in 2008, however, when Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and company dazzled the world with their performances, things started to happen, or so it seemed.

Brand Jamaica was the talk of the day, people travelled all over the world, purportedly to sell, to market, Jamaica, but apart from plenty talk, apart from plenty promises, nothing has happened, at least not fast enough to make any difference.

It is said that something is happening, and maybe it is, but not fast enough.

Maybe George Headley's feats came too early, but it is 66 years since Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley finished one-two in the London Olympics in 1948. It is 62 years since George Rhoden and McKenley finished one-two in the Helsinki Olympic Games of 1952 and since the world-record run of Wint, Les Laing, McKenley, Rhoden in the 4 x 400 relay, it is 52 years since Bunny Grant won the Commonwealth boxing title, and it is 42 years since Lawrence Rowe's world record entry into Test cricket.

Brilliant bowling

It is also 38 years since Don Quarrie won Jamaica's first sprint gold medal in the Montreal Olympics and since Michael Holding's brilliant bowling at The Oval. It is 30 years since Michael McCallum won his first world boxing title, it is 28 years since Trevor Berbick won the world heavyweight title, it is 18 years since Deon Hemmings became the first Jamaica women to win an Olympic gold medal, and it is 14 years, for example, since Courtney Walsh broke the world record for the number of wickets in Test cricket.

Recently, Damion Crawford, the Minister of State in Tourism Development, mentioned the plans for tourism and sports, and apart from beating his chest, apart from giving a politician's one-eyed, or blinkered, view of things, apart from talking about Jamaica's skills in almost every sports and about people from all over the world coming to Jamaica to become champions, he said nothing, nothing which has not been said before, probably since the days of McKenley.

The days of McKenley, however, are long gone, and so too, though not as long, are the days of Walsh.

The days of Usain Bolt, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Veronica Campbell-Brown are also running out, and, who knows, it could be a long, long time before Jamaica can boast athletes of their calibre and of their class.

Jamaica needs to do something now, if it hopes to earn anything from sport, from the talent of those who have thrilled the world with their skill, to help those who cannot help themselves.

Money makes money, and Jamaica may have to bite the bullet, find the money from somewhere, and instead of jumping and shouting and waving the flag, invest in sport, and do so now.

Time is running out. A few, those helped make the brand, have made money, but they are a few, a very few, who have done so. The Jamaica Brand, however, will not always be strong, and surely, not this strong.

Investment in sport is not easy, but maybe some of the things to do would be to build a Hall of Fame, a museum, make Jamaica a training ground for budding athletes, especially for sprinters, make Jamaica the home of one or two international meets and a destination for winter training for cricketers from England, Ireland, etc, and plan events, like an annual tennis or golf tournament, something similar to the Johnny Walker World Golf Championship.

With good planning and management, Jamaica can make money from all sorts of things, including entry fees, participation fees, and hotel bills. The important thing, however, is to do something, and to start now.

Jamaica Sport may be the answer, and we wish them well. May be it is another name with the same intention, but this time, with Chris Dehring in charge, and with Nicola Madden-Greig involved, hopefully it will be as successful as Jamaica's sports has been, for a long, long time.