Dalton Myers | We are not ready for major sporting events
Earlier this year, there were excited discussions about the Government's effort to establish Jamaica as a destination for major sporting events. We also learned that a bid committee has been set up to examine how feasible the move to host major events would be. There were even talks about attempts to host the Commonwealth Games. Then, within the past month, various presidents of national sporting associations have expressed reasons for failed bids or for not bidding at all in some cases.
The Jamaica Tallawahs cricket franchise played most of their 'home' matches in Florida, USA, citing insufficient financial support from the Government to host games in Jamaica as a major reason. A week ago, Jamaica Cricket Association president W. Billy Heaven explained that the board could not afford to bid for the ICC Women's World T20 due to financial reasons. Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts this week also indicated that JFF's bid to host a CONCACAF Gold Cup match will fail due to the inadequacies of our National Stadium. Then, Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAA) president Warren Blake expressed disappointment that Jamaica had failed in its bid to host the 2019 IAAF World Relays due to not "having Government backing".
HOSTING THE GAME
The unsuccessful World Relays bid is especially significant because there was a lot of talk both locally and internationally about Jamaica as hosts. As excited as we are about our sport product, the level of investment from both the public and private sectors does not match that enthusiasm. Without it, the idea that Minister of Sport Olivia Grange has of bringing mega sporting events to Jamaica will remain just a pipe dream. Our facilities nationwide are not at international standards, and that will take investment, especially public-private partnerships, since there are competing national priorities.
I am not surprised that we failed to successfully bid for the 2019 World Relays. I am more surprised that we were contemplating it, primarily because we do not have the infrastructure, and our economic situation would suggest that we need time to make this a reality. Blake is quoted as saying it would cost an estimated US$5million to host the Relays. That is debatable as the Bahamas Athletics Association had indicated that it cost US$5million to host the 2018 event, including accommodation and transportation, and they had budgeted US$3.5million for the 2014 staging. With our poor sporting infrastructure, I am sure it would be way more costly for us.
Can we host major sports events later? Maybe! However, right now, we need to really frame these discussions around a broader economic model that explains how as a country we can benefit from these games, especially as part of our sport tourism product. Very few people even at the policy level in this country seem to have any idea of what sport tourism is, and how we can benefit. Some time ago, the then ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and the Ministry of Sport, under the guidance of the Sports Tourism Implementation Committee, established Jamaica Sport which was a technical working group to tap into our "rich sporting culture". I'm unsure what has happened to that, but there needs to be leadership from the top, with the help of respective stakeholders (private and public bodies)to come up with a feasible framework. Then, we need an education campaign so average Jamaicans understands the benefits of sport tourism.
In the 2018/2019 Sectoral Debate in Parliament, Grange indicated that the planned infrastructural development to sporting facilities will assist our thrust to develop a destination for international sport, while outlining that there were "benefits" to this. My hope is that we will move much further and explain what exactly these benefits are and how students, vendors, corporate Jamaica, and other parties can generate income if we host a major event.
So, while there are disappointments over unsuccessful bids, it may be a blessing in disguise because we are not ready from a financial standpoint or in terms of general infrastructure and road networks. Let us fix those areas over the next four years. Our bidding attempts should only start after we are clear on the strategic plan for sports tourism and sports development in Jamaica.
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org