Dalton Myers | A host of problems - Why Jamaica cannot stage a major multisport event any time soon
The 2019 Pan American Games have just concluded in Lima, Peru, and apart from the weather conditions and the constant traffic, overall, the event was a success for the people of Lima. I’m sure the Pan Am Sports Organisation is happy about the execution. The Peruvian capital did a great job and delivered as expected for the 6,600 athletes from 41 nations present. Jamaica also had record performances in terms of medals, which augurs well for our sport programme’s future.
My only hope is that the newly build state-of-the-art aquatics facility, other sporting venues, and the athletes’ village, along with the other aspects of their legacy projects, will benefit the people of Peru and not become wasted resources, as has happened with many previous cities that have hosted major sporting events. Since my return to Jamaica, there are persons who have raised the old question of whether we could host such an event or something smaller. A friend of mine noted that we already have some facilities in place and that only minor upgrades would be needed.
I disagree and have long believed that we are just not ready for any major sporting events, especially multisport ones. I know that we look over the fence at our regional neighbours Trinidad and Tobago, which have been awarded the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games, or up north to the Bahamas, which hosted the 2017 edition, and believe that we could do it, too. However, I think that to host any major event, there are some low-hanging fruit that we would have to deal with.
First, for some major events, we would need to have a good transportation network or, in some cases, a ‘games lane’ for accredited vehicles exclusively. These lanes would need to link sporting facilities with the athletes’ village, etc. With our traffic-management issues, in the main cities, we would struggle to isolate any space, but this is something to examine. We already have taxi issues compounded by irresponsible drivers who make a mockery of road and traffic legislations. There are way more vehicles in Jamaica now compared to when we hosted the last major sporting event, so a lot has changed.
There is always talk of legacy projects, and while some countries have had success here, for most, that hasn’t been the case. We would need to look at developing infrastructure that could be really beneficial to the people of Jamaica. Successive Jamaican governments have spoken about upgrading facilities. I think that is crucial right now; however, with so many of our sporting facilities in a poor state, there needs to be an overall strategy for developing and maintaining them. I believe that we could start with the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport. The facility needs to be a key part of our strategy for sports moving forward. Since it is a government-owned facility, investment in the physical plant and residential space could be beneficial. Yes, there are always complaints about the distance, but that in itself is relative when you compare it with other sporting events, where journeys of up to an hour can be the norm between the athletes’ village and other important venues.
We have the athletes, officials, and professionals needed to host an event. What we need are better facilities and greater investment in sport. We would need financing from the public purse, along with other public-private partnerships, to make this happen. We would need special legislation, with Government becoming more diligent in ensuring that this new legislation is enforced. The biggest problem we face, though, is indiscipline – on the roads, at sporting events, etc. I remember being a volunteer during the early editions of the Caribbean Premier League, and it was chaos to get patrons to abide by the rules regarding beverages and branding. Of course, a lot of this can be addressed through education, marketing and public relations.
In the end, one of the lessons I learnt from the Peru experience is that while pisco sour and ceviche are awesome, it is the volunteers and assistants who can make any games a success or failure. Jamaicans are amazing people and great hosts, so this would be a plus if we decided to host an event. The overall challenges are prohibitive, though not insurmountable. A long-term development plan, and not simply a committee, is needed to guide how we will approach this.
Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @daltonsmyers.