Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
A bilateral agreement is currently being worked on between Jamaica and South Africa, to aid each other in developing various areas of sports.
An 11-member delegation from the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa is currently in the island, where they intend to meet with various sporting bodies to harvest information. The contingent, headed by KwaZulu-Natal's chairperson of Sports and Recreation Portfolio Committee, Zanele Ludidi, has already made courtesy calls on government officials, the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica Football Federation and the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), which they visited yesterday.
"The bilateral talk is ongoing, but while the bilateral talks are going on we are already on the ground utilising that opportunity," Ludidi told The Gleaner.
"There is a long-standing relationship between Jamaica and South Africa, but while the elders are talking we are busy acquiring knowledge and skills," she added.
Ludidi and her team will be looking to garner information on a variety of sporting disciplines, but she revealed that the primary area of interest is track and field.
"We are here on a study tour. We are learning about sports, in particular track and field events," Ludidi said.
"We all know that this is the home of the sprinters, so we want to know what are they made of. We have heard some stories that they eat yam, so we are about to confirm that to see if it is true," she added.
President of the JAAA, Dr Warren Blake, believes South Africa have plenty to offer Jamaica in the area of middle-distance running, swimming and sports science and is keen to see the countries enter a coach exchange programme.
"It will be a coaching exchange first and foremost and then later on we can look at athlete exchange," Blake shared.
"We don't have a fixed time frame, but we want to do it as soon as possible, hence today's (yesterday) meeting to see what the framework will be like going forward," he added.
Blake revealed that in April he held preliminary talks with the South African high commissioner in Jamaica pertaining to a bilateral agreement with the University of Pretoria - the home of the first heart transplant.
"One of the things that the University of Pretoria could offer to us is their expertise in field preparation because they have great expertise in that. Also, their sports science laboratory is really of world-class status, and they could twin with our universities and we could benefit from that as well.
"They have quite good expertise in swimming as well, so while we may be a bit ahead of them in track, they have a good middle-distance programme in South Africa, and we can benefit from learning about their middle-distance programme and other areas of cooperation with sports science. We can benefit and we can use that to our advantage in track and field, in sprinting, so it is really not a one-way thing."