'We can host 2026 C'wealth Games'
Former Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president Mike Fennell says that Jamaica can host the Commonwealth Games as early as 2026.
Fennell, who was recently tasked by Minister of Sports Olivia Grange to chair a bidding committee to get Jamaica to host international sports events, said that all that is needed is an upfront guarantee of the money to finance the event from the Government.
"We could do it as early as 2026 because 2022 is already awarded to Birmingham (United Kingdom), but we could try to bid for 2026, which is eight years from now," Fennell told The Sunday Gleaner. "We may have to look a little longer because Jamaica is currently engaged in an IMF (International Monetary Fund) standby agreement, and that restricts you in some of the things that you can do, but I don't think we should use the IMF agreement to restrict us in terms of our imagination and having a vision of what we want to do to."
He continued: "But we would have to provide some sort of guarantees for the financing and the capabilities of hosting because no organisation is going to award somebody (The Games) unless they are quite certain (you can host the Games), and it has to be a high level of certainty, that you would have the capabilities."
He said that out of all the multi-sports games, it is most feasible for Jamaica to host the Commonwealth Games as it contains the least number of sports.
"The Commonwealth Games, at the moment, only caters to 17 sports. The Pan American Games has 39 sports, so from a numbers perspective, 17 sports is more manageable," Fennell said.
Fennell, who has sat on the International Olympic Committee's coordination committee, which inspects and approves venues for Olympic Games, said that there are many developments currently under way in Jamaica that would facilitate the hosting of a major event like the Commonwealth Games.
One of those developments is the road network, which easily connects Kingston to the hotel resorts on the North Coast via the North South Highway. Fennell said that this could cater to accommodation needs of the influx of visitors that the event would attract to the island.
He said: "As far as the athletes' accommodations are concerned, an athletes' village is required. An athletes' village is a big housing scheme, and if you think about it, Jamaica is in need of housing, so we could plan a big housing development - an apartment complex - that would be used initially for the Games and then sold off or rented out by the developer later."
As it relates to sporting venues to host the various events, Fennell, who served as president of the Commonwealth Games Federation from 1998 until 2011, acknowledged that some amount of work would need to be done.
"We have our main stadium, which is desperately in need of modernisation, and the Government has already made a commitment to take it (stadium) a stage up. We also need more work on the indoor arenas, and we would also need a warm-up pool, and there is space for that," Fennell said.
Fennell, who stepped down as president of the JOA after serving 40 years, said that he is currently in the process of putting together the bidding committee and would be looking to the various sports associations for assistance.