As the world is being battered by the current economic recession, governments are seeking new and innovative ways to earn well-needed funds and to also provide jobs.
What then could help to boost Jamaica's economy? I say we go after two major sporting events over the next three to five years. These major events could attract
Foreign-exchange income for the country
International media attention
Temporary jobs for residents
Opportunities for other residents to volunteer.
Over the next five years, World Track and Field championship is in Berlin (August 2009), World Cup Football, South Africa (July 2010) and Summer Olympic Games, London, (2012) are just some of the major events to take place; but there will be need for preparation tournaments and championships prior to these events.
I see where the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) is about to host a USA and Jamaica bonanza; that would grab some attention, generating some well-needed funds. Also with Jamaica out of World Cup football, could we create a football festival where top teams (countries or clubs) can participate?
Also, could the cricket body look at its schedule over the next three years and see where a three/four nation five-day tournament could fit in.
Several news stories recently have shown where countries and states are moving towards sport tourism as an option, with the latest being Hawaii and also Thailand. One of the common reasons was "people need to feel good".
Last month, the Hawaii Tourism Authority voted to allow the NFL's Pro Bowl game to return to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. The game has been held the week after the Super Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu since 1980, and has sold out every time.
JTB should see sport as a priority
Can the Jamaica Tourist Board work closer with the sporting federations to create our own sporting festival and throw their weight behind this venture? In light of the recent budget allocations to the industry, I am sure there are creative ways we can spread the money around effectively.
Malta recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Sheffield United and is using that collaboration to promote Malta as a sporting destination. Malta's training facilities, restaurants and other entertainment sites benefit over a two week period along with the media exposure. Malta's athletes also benefit from the technical courses run during this period; while volunteers are used to offer support services.
There are five or more internationally accepted sporting facilities across the island and so Jamaica should look to form relationships which will see countries, clubs and university/college teams come for a week or two to use the facilities, discover Jamaica and compete against our teams.
Let us look at a national football league, major league baseball, UK football club and any university in the US or Canada for starter and host one every half a year. That could generate the interest!
Note: The Jamaican people were the MVP for CHAMPS, April 1 to 4. Well done!