Stars booked for Jamaica Invitational - Bolt, Blake, VCB, SFP, Felix all secured despite financial hurdles
Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
Triple world record holder Usain Bolt and reigning World 100m champion Yohan Blake have both been confirmed for the 10th staging of the Jamaica International Invitational set for May 4 inside the National Stadium.
However, staging this year's meet and securing some of the world's top athletes have not been easy for organisers because of the financial challenges facing the country and with most local companies having entered a second National Debt Exchange (NDX) programme with the Government.
"A lot of potential sponsors have mentioned the NDX as a challenge, so it would have had some effect, but not to the extent where it would have been disastrous, in my view," said Ludlow Watt, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association treasurer and vice-chairman of the organising committee, during yesterday's press launch held at the Spanish Court Hotel.
"There is some concern expressed by some sponsors, but we are still in dialogue with a number of potential sponsors."
Meanwhile, despite the fact that fans will not see the two top male sprinters competing against each other, reigning 200m Olympic champion Allyson Felix and reigning World 200m champion Veronica-Campbell Brown will be facing the starters together in a highly anticipated 100m clash.
Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce will be running in the 200m and Olympic 110m hurdles bronze medallist Hansle Parchment will line up in his pet event.
The United States' Wallace Spearmon will be competing in the 200m, while Kaliese Spencer and Nesta Carter are also down to run, though their events, Bolt and Blake's, have not yet been confirmed.
"We are looking forward to seeing Veronica Campbell-Brown and Allyson Felix in the 100m, and we are hoping that we might get two more of the elite athletes in that race," said Organising Committee member Don Quarrie.
The meet this year will feature one new event, the discus for both men and women, in which Jamaica's own young Travis Smikle is expected to participate.
"The IAAF has stipulations. They have core events, and discus was one of their core events," Quarrie explained. "They are strict on making sure that athletes in various events get equal opportunity to compete throughout the world, so if four to five meets don't have discus, it is to the detriment of the athletes."
It will cost patrons $5,000 for finish-line seats and $3,000 for regular grandstand seating, while bleachers tickets will be sold for $800. Tickets will go on sale on May 1 at the Wyndham hotel, York Pharmacy and Stadium ticket office.