LONDON — Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, says Jamaica is poised to become the leading training base for sprint athletes from across the globe and is urging major investors in sports to develop initiatives that will lead to improved structures and facilities on the island.
She was delivering the keynote address at a fundraising dinner for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) on July 9, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Birmingham, England.
In an interesting, fact-filled presentation, chronicling Jamaica’s arrival, participation and domination on the athletics world stage, Minister Grange said the country has become synonymous with the highest standards in sprinting in the world.
She pointed that Jamaica’s athletics programme had matured to the point where junior athletes no longer migrate to the United States (US) to train, as first class development programmes have been established at the University of Technology (UTech) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) under renowned coaches Stephen Francis and Glen Mills, among others.
She stated that Jamaica is in a position to share its expertise in coaching with the world.
Noting the “umbilical relationship” that exists between sports and culture, Minister Grange stated that with half of the population being young people, the essentials are in place for the sectors to thrive and play a leading role in the country’s growth and development.
“We are a young nation with a population that is almost 50 per cent young people. Our young people have demonstrated their capacity to deliver on their dreams and, in so doing, craft our nation’s vision. Our culture and sports are both youth-led. Sports and youth development are intertwined and culture provides the platform on which their development is channeled,” she said.
She argued that the outstanding achievements of the elite athletes are not only attributable to the pioneers in track and field but also to the country’s cultural ambassadors, who helped to develop a national identity with which athletes readily identify and from which they draw inspiration.
The Minister invited those in attendance to seize on the many opportunities that exist in Jamaica’s sport and culture sectors, noting that the country has developed highly attractive products in both areas that are already being exported to the world but could benefit from significant investment and expansion.
The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby, in a video-taped presentation, thanked the Jamaican officials for choosing Birmingham as the site for their training camp ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Jamaican team will train at Birmingham University ahead of competition in London. Mr. Whitby said Jamaica’s presence in the city will bring in more than £20 million to the local economy. The US team will also be training in Birmingham.
President of the JAAA, Howard Aris, in his contribution, stressed the importance of continued support for the Jamaican athletics programme, noting that the emerging crop of athletes are demanding increasingly high standards, which can only be attained through sustained development.
He thanked the people of Birmingham for their overwhelming interest in Jamaican athletics and the strength of their commitment to the programme.
The sold-out gala dinner was hosted by the Birmingham City Council in collaboration with the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK. It is estimated that in excess of £15,000 (approximately $2.1 million) was raised to support the work of the JAAA’s.
Among those in attendance were Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Michael Frater; General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society, Earl Jarrett; President of US Track and Field, Stephanie Hightower; Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anita Ward; Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, Paul Tilsey; and President of the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK, Beverley Lindsay, OBE.
The event was staged as a precursor to Sunday’s (July 10) Birmingham Diamond League, at which several Jamaicans will participate, including Powell and Frater.
By ANDREW CLUNIS, JIS Reporter