Scores of Jamaicans, friends of Jamaica and residents of Birmingham City in the United Kingdom (UK), turned out on February 20, to witness the official signing of an agreement which will see the country’s track and field team stage their training camp in that city, ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The celebratory event, held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in the heart of England’s second city, formalised a deal that was struck last year, which will provide Jamaica’s track and field stars with world class training and medical facilities ahead of the London games.
The signatories were President of the Jamaican Amateur Athletics Association, Mr. Howard Aris; Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Mike Whitby and Vice Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood.
Mr. Aris said the decision to select Birmingham was made after careful consideration of the other offers that were presented. Among the cities that failed in the bid were Cardiff, Loughborough, Berlin and Amsterdam. He said Birmingham offered the right mix of accommodation, indoor and outdoor training facilities, state-of-the-art medical programmes and enough Jamaican culture to make the athletes feel at home.
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Michael Wilkes (left) and his wife, Lady Vivienne Wilkes (second left), lead the crowd in doing the Bolt Salute, at the Jamaica training camp signing ceremony, held on Saturday, February 20, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
“We are very comfortable with what Birmingham has presented. This has been a long journey and we are happy to be formalising this agreement with a view to staging the best training camp possible for our athletes in 2012,” he added.
Councillor Whitby said the occasion represented a milestone for the city of Birmingham and pledged to build on the relationship to ensure that there will be a great legacy for Jamaica and Birmingham.
“We have a fantastic reputation as a sporting city. We are proud that we will be hosting the fastest men and women in the world. But this relationship goes beyond the training camp. The work starts now to build the sporting and cultural legacies that will be mutually beneficial to Birmingham and Jamaica. We will start this year by sending a team to the Gibson relays and we will be having Jamaican coaches coming to Birmingham to share with us. We look forward to 2012 and the occasion of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence when we will put on a spectacular show to celebrate the great ties between Jamaica and Birmingham,” he said.
The deal is estimated to be worth millions of pounds, including the cost offset for the training camp and the legacy component.
Professor Eastwood outlined the university’s facilities and sporting history and invited Jamaican athletes to consider taking up scholarships at the institution.
Several Jamaican athletes participated in the signing ceremony, including hurdler, Dwight Thomas; 400 metres runner, Ricardo Chambers and sprinters Mario Forsythe and Nesta Carter.
Mr. Thomas told JIS News that he endorsed the occasion and was eagerly anticipating the camp as he was impressed with the facilities.
The athletes competed at the Aviva Indoor Meet in the afternoon, where Novlene Williams Mills was an easy winner in the 400 metres for women.
The day’s activities were crowned with a celebratory black tie dinner, which brought together the best of Birmingham and Jamaican track and field.
A message was read on behalf of the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, in which she congratulated the parties for arriving at a deal, “which will be mutually beneficial to Jamaica and Birmingham.”
She said the Ministry had developed a very good relationship with the city of Birmingham and she looked forward to deepening the association for the benefit of the Jamaican expatriates, as well as Jamaicans at home. She lauded the University of Birmingham for seeking to build links with the University of Technology in the area of sports medicine.