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Polo has been identified as a catalyst that can potentially drive Jamaica’s quest to tap into the multibillion-dollar high-end global tourism sports market.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says to fully capitalise on the opportunities available in sports tourism, his Ministry, through the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), has been working alongside Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange.
He notes that Jamaica has all the ingredients, including being strategically located, to be one of the major global players.
“One of the big reasons people travel is to enjoy sporting events, and we do have several marquee events annually that can be pull factors… polo [being] one of them,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Bartlett says polo’s popularity, rich history and tradition in Jamaica have grown over the years to the point where the sport now has a wide crossover appeal.
The Minister, who attended the recent Chukka Foundation and Hanover Charities annual polo event, has high praises for the organisers, noting the “huge” support by participants and patrons.
The event, which was held at Chukka Sandy Bay Outpost in Hanover, was an exhibition match between Jamaica and a team from Newport, Rhode Island in the United States (US).
“I know [it was] a charity event. But this is a sport [which], like golf and tennis, can be a value-added component, by way of sports tourism. We have several playing fields here on the north coast, including… Chukka Bay [in Hanover], where more events like these can be organised,” he tells JIS News.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Marc Melville, points out that polo is reputed to be one of the oldest team sports in recorded history, having been first played over 2,000 years ago.
He says the game has become part of Jamaica’s rich history, complemented by full equestrian centres and players who have long been affiliated with it
“I have been involved in polo for some 40 years, and having this charity event with Hanover Charities is a big deal for Chukka and communities across the parish,” Mr. Melville says, adding that “it’s our way of giving back, especially to education”.
He maintains that “our aim is not only to highlight the sport’s impact on the Jamaican economy but the advances made in the standard of amateur polo”.
Mr. Melville says Jamaica’s horse-breeding programme is another significant area that has assisted in polo’s growth and development.
“We hope to build on [that] tradition, document the achievements of the players, and widen awareness of this vibrant sport,” he tells JIS News.
The British Army has been credited with introducing polo to Jamaica in the late 1800s, with the sport being a cultural mainstay ever since.
Jamaica’s rich polo history first intertwined with Newport’s in 1994, with team members over the years becoming great friends and even greater rivals.
For Jamaican and American players, polo is often a family sport, with the love for this fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping pastime being passed down through generations.
The Chukka Foundation and Hanover Charities host their signature social fundraising affair – the Polo Charity Event – annually, in February, at Chukka Sandy Bay in Hanover.
As Jamaica’s most prestigious and largest polo charity event, the fundraiser benefits the Chukka Foundation and Hanover Charities in their philanthropic efforts to continue supporting education, health programmes, local student scholarships and assisting communities in need.
For Chukka’s Executive Director, John Byles, the event is a family-oriented, quintessentially fun afternoon of sport and socialising.
“With the endorsement of the JTB, sponsors and partnerships, proceeds are used to support communities and impact so many lives,” he notes.
Mr. Byles assures that “we are dedicated to continue making this an annual event that will bring the community together and raise funds for scholarships and community projects”.
He thanks the donors “who have helped make a difference with their generosity to schools and communities with cash donations, gifts of books, art and sport supplies”.