Fri | Aug 18, 2017

'Jamaica didn’t capitalise on the Bolt supremacy'

Published:Wednesday | June 14, 2017 | 6:00 AMDania Bogle
Blake
Carole Beckford
Chris Dehring
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After a nine-year reign at the top of global athletics Usain Bolt will be packing up his spikes in just over two months following the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

The athlete's popularity drew a lot of attention to Jamaica from other countries; the foreign press, and even world leaders such as former United States president Barack Obama after he won his first Olympic title in world record time in Beijing in 2008.

However, some business persons believe that the country did not gain as much as it could have in the way of development from capitalising on Bolt's supremacy.

Chief executive officer of Ready TV, Chris Dehring, summed it up in one phrase "We did not bottle 'Lightning' when we had a chance."

"Until we actually have a bona fide sports industry in Jamaica we would never have done enough. Sporadic attempts have been made on and off, but there has never been an overarching policy. We had a great opportunity while the eyes of the world were on us because of Usain Bolt," Dehring told The Gleaner.

"(Bolt) should have given Government the impetus to look at an overarching industry policy as opposed to a sports policy, but nobody has really created a sports industry policy," he added.

Dehring, who was managing director of the ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies 2007, said he talked about developing sports as a business for years and when he got no traction, he decided "to put my money where my mouth is".

"And I started SportsMax in 2001 and that was sold to Digicel in a multimillion dollar deal so if people can't see that as a business that can be developed ... ," he mused.

Communications specialist, Carole Beckford, who once worked with Bolt, did not want to comment on the specifics on the athlete's legacy, but agreed that Jamaica has missed a number of chances to capitalise on sport as an industry.

"We have a destination that has the following: Top-class elite athletes (in at least six sporting disciplines); technical leaders; venues that can host events, and business leaders who can influence change," she told The Gleaner, using Dehring himself as an example.

 

NARROW VISION

 

"We have, however, sought to remain narrow in the vision for sport and relegate it to episodic and periodic events and as a result we still only have great "feel good" moments," Beckford, manager, communications and marketing, Cricket West Indies, added.

However, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association president, Dr Warren Blake, said that the country had done as much as it could have done using Bolt's name.

"We were able to get a track out of it (UWI/Usain Bolt track at the University of the West Indies)," he said, adding that he would "challenge anyone to point out how and when we missed opportunities."

"We have made use of it. The phenomenon of Usain Bolt is still an ongoing one and the possibility of leveraging is not over. I think we have done the best we could do," he said.

As it relates to it not being too late, Beckford concurred.

"There is still time...," she said.

Dehring, in the meantime, said while the country would never get another chance as it had with Bolt, Jamaica is still a brand name in the world of sport.

"What we must not let happen is like what we did with West Indies cricket, that we had a great opportunity and that slipped away until West Indies cricket isn't even an afterthought in the world of sport now," he said.