Digicel rings in Grand Prix series for high schools
Andre Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Telecommunications company Digicel has dialled up a three-year partnership agreement with six local development meets, forming what will be known as the Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championships.
The series, which will culminate at the March 14 G.C. Foster College Classic, will see some 300,000 athletes from 200 schools competing for a chance to win several individual prizes, plus $1 million worth of equipment for their school.
Five 'regional' meets - Youngster Goldsmith, Camperdown Classic, Corporate Area Championships (Surrey), Western Championships (Cornwall) and the Central Championships (Middlesex) will be used to determine qualifiers for the G.C. Foster Classic grand finale.
Athletes will test each other in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, long jump, discus and 4x400m relays throughout the series, with accumulated points from the regional meets being carried over to the finale, where the overall champion male and female schools will be determined.
The top-two finishers in each event from Western and Central Championships, respectively, and the top-four best performers in each event from the Youngster Goldsmith, Camperdown Classic and Corporate Area Championships, will book their spots at the curtain closer.
Peter Lloyd, director of marketing, Digicel, hailed the partnership as the company's effort towards ensuring the sustainability of Jamaica's athletics product.
"This is a historic partnership for youth athletics in Jamaica. At Digicel, we continue to invest heavily in youth and sports, and this is evident in the work that we have been doing," said Lloyd, who pointed to the company's grassroots development programme.
"There are several very important development meets that take place all across the island; all of them help to prepare youths to advance to the next level in their career. Importantly, these meets help us to identify up-and-coming athletes that they can be nurtured to their full potential," added Lloyd.
"It's a significant financial investment, but this is not just about finances, this is a partnership where we are going to grow and help these meets to develop their brand and create first-class meets in Jamaica," said Lloyd. "We are extremely excited ... we wanted to make sure that we play a part in the full journey from grassroots level all the way to the very top."
Minister with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, welcomed the collaboration, while underlining the government's work with the refurbishing of over 20 schools' playing fields, including the construction of a synthetic track at Calabar High.
"One of the issues referred to in the sports policy is the importance of the partnership between corporate Jamaica and government with regards to sports. I am extremely pleased with our continued success in track and field, that the corporate sponsors are coming on board and are continuing to step up to the plate in producing greater quality meets and exposing our athletes to first world, first-class athletic championships," said Neita-Headley. "I'm looking forward to this partnership for the next three years. I applaud the effort of Digicel and the endorsement of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (and) I think its going to auger well for track and field and the development of our youngsters."
The initiative was also celebrated by Digicel ambassador, Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
"This is a very impressive effort. As a company Digicel is not obligated to do anything and they have done a lot and for them to take this next step in trying to build on our sporting success, it just shows the confidence they have in Jamaica and our athletes and shows how much they want to see us do well," Fraser-Pryce said.
"Many athletes will be able to say that they owe a part of their success to Digicel, and this allows them to help play a role in sustaining our athletics success and playing a part in the sport from the very beginning, not just when the glory comes along," she added.