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Sir Hilary: Protect Ja's sporting tradition

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2016 | 1:00 AMDania Bogle
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles speaking at Friday night's RJR Sport Foundation's National Sportsman and Sportswoman awards ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

Jamaican sport has reached a pinnacle of excellence which all Jamaicans have a collective responsibility to maintain and sustain.

That was the message from Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who was guest speaker at Friday night's RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards Ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.

"This extraordinary nation has made a most incredible contribution to sport," Sir Hilary told the audience at the ceremony to honour Jamaica's best in sport for 2015.

Sir Hilary, who has an affinity to cricket in particular, noted that Jamaican sport history was unique in its style, quality, and performance, and its capacity to establish gender equality in the process.

"Jamaica has done what many countries have aspired to do in many areas, but especially in sporting culture. This phenomenal achievement has been recognised and it has been respected," he said.

"There is a tradition of excellence in Jamaica, and this excellence has to be maintained and it has to be sustained. It must be institutionalised and it must be industrialised," the Barbados-born educator said.

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"If it is not institutionalised and industrialised it will be lost. I have seen how many nations have lost that excellence they have achieved," Sir Hilary added.

Sir Hilary used West Indies cricket as an example of a sport which had at one stage been excellent but later deteriorated dramatically.

"In some societies it is considered a crime to lose that excellence," he said.

"This must never happen to Jamaican sport. I don't wish to be writing in the closing stages of my career about the fall of Jamaican sport," he added.

"Every child in Jamaica must grow to see that things are designed in Jamaica, patented ... exported from Jamaica, representing the legends in Jamaican sport. We are here to celebrate this monument. It must not fall."

Sir Hilary, who gained tenure at age 37, said the University of the West Indies had an important role to play in ensuring that Jamaican sport does not lose its value.

"Research, innovation, bringing culture, manufacturing, finance, and technology together to sustain this incredible achievement," he said.

"We all have a responsibility. There has to be accountability. It must not be taken lightly. The efforts of generations must not be dashed overnight."