EDITORIAL - Champs showcasing Jamaica sporting prowess
LATER TODAY, the final medals in the annual schools' athletics championship will be handed out at the National Stadium and the winners will be ecstatic. The 102nd staging of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships would have generated substantial global coverage for Jamaica's student athletes, and would also have highlighted ISSA's event-management capability.
Recognised as the world's biggest high-school athletic event, Jamaica can expect a huge publicity bonanza from Champs, which has been televised around the world. These days, sporting events are very much about marketing and sponsorships as they are about on-track performances. Indeed, Champs has created a window through which the world can view another side of Jamaica. This is the side that shows tenacity, dedication, skill and determination. And the country also gets an opportunity to show off its vibrant culture and renowned hospitality.
Small countries like ours know the publicity value of staging world-class events. This partly explains why the Jamaican Government incurred huge debts in staging Cricket World Cup 2007, not least of which is the underused stadium that tax-payers are still paying for. So it is puzzling that international cricket is currently being played in the West Indies and Jamaica, with the largest population, and the home of regional champions, has not been given the nod to host any of these matches. It is valid to argue, as many cricket fans have done, that something seems out of proportion here. The West Indies Cricket Board should recognise that, despite the inconsistencies in recent performances by the team, there remains a loyal fan base in Jamaica and these fans deserve to be treated better.
the nation's pride
For now, though, these 2,500 athletes are the pride of the nation, showcasing their magnificent talents and leaving their schools and supporters bloated with pride and joy. Sport-loving Jamaicans would have witnessed some memorable moments in the last five days, and for a few hours at least, the urban woes of crime and its attendant headaches would have been lost in the electric performances of our young athletes and rising stars.
Jamaicans have demonstrated their great prowess in football, netball and cricket, but perhaps we have earned the greatest accolades on the tracks. Thanks to the performances of pioneering athletes of many decades gone, Jamaica has cemented its place in athletic history, earning the enviable title of 'sprint capital of the world'. And this dominance is reinforced year after year. And as ambitious as it may seem, some of these young athletes may even nurture the thought of making the leap from student competitor to Olympic campaigner.
It is acknowledged that Champs is to be commended for giving the impetus to coaches to identify, encourage and nurture new talents in the schools. This is a major reason for Jamaica's success in the world of track and field.
We hope that these 'champs' will have exceeded the expectations of the organisers and the fans, and that we were able to show the world that Jamaicans can put on a good show. In this Olympic year, the world is put on notice that the energy is churning up as Jamaican athletes prepare to make their mark in Britain this summer.
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