Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Olympian Atkinson graces walls of island’s ports

Published:Wednesday | December 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Alia Atkinson (right) points to her photo on the wall at the Port of Montego Bay, after being taken on a tour by Skeeter McKenzie (left), security manager at the port, last Saturday.


Double world record holder in short-course swimming, Alia Atkinson, is among the first group of outstanding Jamaican athletes to grace the walls of the island's cruise ship ports.

Atkinson, who has been nominated for the RJRGLEANER Communications Group 2017 Sportswoman of the Year, takes pride of place with some of the country's most illustrious athletes, including the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt; Olympians Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and the indomitable cricketer, Chris Gayle.

The mural, which is also featured at the Port of Ocho Rios, is part of the vision of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to immediately showcase Jamaica visually, and to deliver the 'Jamaican experience' to cruise visitors as they disembark the vessel.

Some 1.9 million cruise ship passengers visit the island annually; more than half of them disembark at the ports in the tourism capital, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios.

"Many aspects of Jamaica are showcased - food, culture, folklore, natural attractions and our people - athletes, musicians, poet, craft vendors, market vendors etc ... the five join a list of cultural icons," says the PAJ's vice-president of cruise shipping and marina operations, William Tatham.

Atkinson, who resides in Florida, went directly to the Port of Montego Bay to view the mural on arrival on the island last weekend to host her swim clinic at the University of the West Indies, Mona.




The sight of her lean physique set in a position ready to dive into competition brought a sense of pride, and this was evident as she exclaimed.

"It's really cool to see Montego Bay showing me some love. I am honoured and a little speechless," said the woman who made history when she became the first person of colour to hold a world swimming title.

"I am even more honoured to be on the same wall as some of the biggest names in sports," she added, noting that she knows the day will come when her face is placed on the murals in the airports.

According to the PAJ, the murals are part of a larger aspect of upgrading the terminals to world-class standards. So far, US$150 million has been spent in the last 18 months by the government agency investing in the cruise product.

The improvement work, the PAJ notes, will greatly enhance not only the efficiency in terms of operations, but will also significantly enhance the cruise visitor experience.