Digicel puts big bucks into Grand Prix Athletic Championships
Telecommunications company Digicel has almost doubled the sponsorship for this year's Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championships from $8.5 million to $16 million in cash and prizes in this, the second year of the six-meet high school series.
The Grand Prix, which gets under way on February 6 with the Western Championships at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay as well as the Youngster Goldsmith National Classic at the National Stadium in Kingston, was launched yesterday at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
The other meets in the series are the Corporate Area Development Meet on February 11 and the Camperdown Classic on February 13, both at the National Stadium; and the Central Championships on February 16 and the G.C. Foster Classics on February 20, both at the G.C. Foster College in Spanish Town.
The events to be contested over the course of the series will be the 100 metres, 200m, 400m, 800m, long jump, high jump, discus, and 4x400m.
The five regional meets - the Corporate Area Development Meet, Youngster Goldsmith, Camperdown Classic (Corporate Area), Western Championships, and Central Championships - will be used to determine the qualifiers for the final on February 20.
The six athletes with the two best times from each of the regional meets will advance to the final, with the athletes with the two best times from any meet who did not advance to the final earning wildcard spots for each event.
Points will also be awarded to the winning schools, and the institution with the highest number of points will be declared champion at the end of the series. A champion boy, girl, and coach will also be named.
The prizes for this year's event include smartphones, $1 million worth of sporting equipment to the winning schools, and cash prizes of up to $250,000 to the champions.
Any athlete who breaks a meet record will earn a scholarship of $20,000, which will be paid directly to the school the athlete will attend in September 2016.
There are also $20,000 awards for breaking a championship or national junior record.
Digicel's chief executive officer David Butler told The Gleaner that the company was committed to the long-term development of Jamaican sports.
"Since Digicel has been in Jamaica, we have been involved in many grass-roots schemes. Last year was such a success. We just felt that after a huge opportunity, we could see that people really loved the Grand Prix, and the idea was to put more back into the schools," he said.
"This year, we included a scholarship fund of just over $1 million, and that was really important, and it's also about what kids are doing after athletics," Butler added.
Butler also revealed that the company had extended its three-year sponsorship of the meet, which began in 2015, until 2019.
"I think we really wanted to show our commitment to this, and it gives great comfort as well to the events that are involved that we extended that out and we wanted them to understand that this isn't a one-off thing," he said.
More than 14,000 athletes from 200 schools around the island are expected to participate in the Championships.