Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Triathlon, an event to boost sport tourism in Jamaica

Carole Beckford, Contributor

The Rose Hall Triathlon, which ended in Jamaica last weekend, was a clear indication that the tourism sector is maximising its opportunities for the development of sports as a valuable aspect of the tourism product.

The triathlon, by nature, suggests endurance, and so Jamaica is making sure there is diversity to its tourism product to attract a wider cross section of visitors to the island.

What was amazing about this massive three-day event was the opportunity for guests from home and abroad to not just experience the event, but also to see wellness in a new light.

fit principles

This event is well-timed, as following on the heels of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, China; the curious onlookers tried to figure out what was it Jamaican athletes were doing that made them so great. The wellness aspect highlighted just some of the positives.

From the seminars which took place on October 24, it was evident that Jamaica's foods had something in them no other types of foods have, and the presenters called for the authorities to "ensure that all is done environmentally to protect the foods in Jamaica."

Most triathlons do not have this type of wellness fest, but trust Jamaica to be innovative, and it worked, as people from all walks of life listened and interacted with presenters on principles of staying fit and healthy. These principles varied, but the real story which emerged was "Jamaican athletes were special and it is something to nurture because of the nature in Jamaica."

big-city event

Triathlons are generally held in big cities and these competitions, which include cycling, swimming and running, date back to the 1920s. Reports have indicated that the triathlon was used as 'off-beat training exercise for runners'. Jamaica, as an island, is in a great place for the development of this event as an attraction and could even be seen as a source of early training for some of our athletes as we seek to further strengthen our athletics programme.

The sport made its debut in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and is now in a number of cities across the world, attracting thousands of competitors worldwide each year. There are even shorter versions for children.

Why not Jamaica then? The Treasure Beach group has hosted a successful triathlon, and now Rose Hall has come on board. It is the way to go for diversity and with proper organisation can also attract great media attention to the sport and Jamaica.

stage is set

Certainly our beaches are available for the swimming leg and with the major improvement in the road network, cycling is not too challenging either. For Montego Bay, the Catherine Hall Sports Complex, home of the Montego Bay Relays, could be the venue for the running aspect. So the stage is set.

This column supports diversity and new and innovative ideas, as in this time of strange economic events, a destination has to get creative. Jamaica, as always, sits on a gold mine and should explore all the opportunities.

Organisers of the WATA triathlon should be commended for going out on a limb and as we hope for the effective growth of Jamaica as a sports tourism destination, I welcome more initiatives of this kind.

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