Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beyond the Asafa-Bolt hype

Are the JAAA, JTB cashing-in at National Trials?
BY ANDREW HANCEL Observer staff reporter
Sunday, June 15, 2008

When Usain Bolt broke Asafa Powell's world record recently, many avenues open. Bolt and Powell are now expected to meet over the distance at the Jamaica Olympic Trials (June 27-29) in a contest that has already triggered massive interest around the globe.

Established international media entities such has BBC, ESPN, FoxSports and NBC and a host of other broadcasting agencies from as far as Japan, Italy and L'Equipe of France, have all indicated their desire to give coverage to this stellar event.

But beyond the hype and drama that is about to unfold at the National Stadium in Kingston, the issue of how the nation can capitalise on the expected influx of revenue gathers momentum.

At a glance the possibilities are endless. By virtue of Jamaica being a great tourist destination, coupled with its world acclaimed reggae music, the little Caribbean island stands to benefit immensely - if shrewdly and prudently executed - from these Olympic Trials.

From the look of things, however, the governing body for the sport, the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA), appears to have already dropped the baton.

Carole Beckford, author of the book, Keeping Jamaica's Sport on Track, indicate that another opportunity to market Jamaica via sport could go abegging.

"One of the things that we fail to do effectively is to mix sports with entertainment, because that is a package all to its self," Beckford told Sunday Observer in a recent interview.

"We've been in the Olympics for 60 years, so it's time to re-engage our youngsters and our people into Jamaica's history of... the Olympics games," she pointed.

Meanwhile, Jamaica gained invaluable experience in the hosting of major events from the 2002 World Junior Championships and the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

Knowing what it takes to stage a world event, the onus is now on the key players, including the government, to bring added value to this upcoming event - arguably is the most highly anticipated pre-Olympics meet heading into the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, China.
According to the website, Sport Tourism is a multi-billion dollar business and one of the fastest growing of the US$4.5 trillion global travel and tourism industry.

But delving into this is relatively virgin territory in the Jamaican context and for the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), notes Beckford.

"It's (for) the Jamaica Tourist Board to now see the National Trials as a major event and package it properly so that it will engage and attract people to come into the country... associate it with the entertainment package," said Beckford.

Tourism Minister, Ed Bartlett, told the Sunday Observer that "Sport Tourism will become the centre-piece of the tourism new marketing approach to drive greater visitor arrivals into the country".
But it still remains unclear whether the JTB is on board for the most important weekend in June.

When contacted, lead organiser of the Jamaica Trials, Ludlow Watts, had little say.

"We're in our planning stage now and I don't want to make a lot of comment... but... a lot of interests is being generated. All the various components are being processed right now... and a lot of interest is being shown in the championships. We're actually planning for a high-quality meet," Watts stated.

"We expect it to be high quality based on the performance of the athletes and we in turn want... to provide a good structure and ensure that we have a good Championship for the benefit of the athletes and the spectators..."

It is yet to be seen, however, to what degree Jamaica reaps benefits from parading on local soil the two fastest human beings that have ever lived.

Taken from the Jamaica Observer

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