There is a Green Paper on the proposed national sports policy that it took the Jamaica Labour Party four long years to put together. The Government that will be formed by the incoming People’s National Party (PNP) will have the opportunity now to peruse the extensive document and determine whether it is a feasible way to move forward with the development of sport as an economic driver for Jamaica’s stagnant economy.

Prior to these elections one never got the sense that Jamaica’s lawmakers took sports seriously enough. They saw it primarily as recreation and not as a business, an industry through which employment can be generated and through which Jamaica can earn significantly. As I have said repeatedly Jamaica is a strong brand, one that was made strong by our success in sports and entertainment. Just today, international celebrity website TMZ published a story and pictures of World and Olympic Champion Usain Bolt partying over the the Christmas holidays. How many other Jamaican athletes have you ever seen been featured on websites such as this? Which other Jamaican sports personality have been pictured conversing with movie stars such as Sandra Bullock? The Bolt era is approaching its peak and we would be foolhardy not to capitalize on what he has brought to Brand Jamaica. Similarly, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Shelly Ann Frazer and Veronica Campbell Brown are virtually household names in Europe. However, the window is closing fast on the chances that we have to really make a financial killing.

The PNP’s campaign spokesman Delano Franklyn, speaking on election night after his party had been declared convincing winners, said the new Government will have to hit the ground running. His statement could not have been more appropriate. London 2012 is just six months away and Bolt as well as Jamaica will have yet another major platform from which to sell Jamaica once again. Beijing came as a bit of a surprise, London gives us a chance to really position the country to make hay while the sun is still shining.

“One of the first things that the new government will have to do is very quickly review where the currrent Ministry of Sport is in relation to sport development in Jamaica. This includes coming quickly to a decision on moving the Green Paper to a White Paper ensuring that the White Paper reflects what the government and most importantly, the stakeholders would wish to do in terms of sports development. It will also include the re-introduction of the National Sports Council (NSC) which hardly met, if at all, under the last government. Also, sports will have to be examined and approached from a business perspective thus leveraging sporting opportunities within and outside the country with a view of adding to the country’s economic stock,” Franklyn said the morning after.

Franklyn has written a number of books on Jamaican sports and is very aware of this country’s shortcomings as it relates to the opportunities that have passed us by in relation to the nation’s sporting prowess. I would hope that he will use his influence to speed along all the processes necessary for Jamaica to start reaping the benefits. Should Prime Minister designate decide to maintain her position as sports minister, she has people on whom she can call. In addition to Franklyn, Lisa Hanna, one of the shining stars of the PNP’s successful campaign, has very good ideas on what can be done to develop sports here in Jamaica. During a couple of conversations I have had with her on the matter I was left impressed with her vision on how Jamaica can really benefit from sports. Revenues from sports are estimated at about 2.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Imagine if we should triple that over the next decade or so what it would mean for the country as it relates to job creation and the emergence of new sports-related business?

Think about the possibility of Jamaica raising US$300 or US$400 million to build a new multi-purpose national stadium that could be used to primarily host international sporting events and conventions. In the short term such a project would employ thousands of people, then in the medium term, support industries to deal with the maintenance of the facility and concession stands that would be in operation for major events. International track meets,  exhibition basketball and tennis matches, swimming competitions, football matches as well as events like World’s Strongest Man competition and international body building contests, would all be possible with the right marketing and promotion. Money from broadcast rights, gate receipts, and tourist arrivals would help pay off the money raised for the construction while employing thousands and generating millions that would help fill the national purse.

Such has to be the thinking. Jamaica: the sporting destination of the Caribbean and perhaps even the world.

In addition to the national sports policy, there are other internal issues that the new Government will have to address with some amount of exigency. The matters relating to the board of the Sports Development Foundation and Insports, primary drivers in local sports development cannot be ignored. Local sporting bodies are struggling and need all the help that can be mustered. They need also to be aided in learning how to raise the profiles of their respective sports so that Jamaica can unearth other talents that are out there waiting to be discovered.

It is also time for Jamaica to develop a national sports museum that will celebrate Jamaica’s sporting success over the years, from Arthur Wint winning Jamaica’s first gold medal at the ’48 Games in London, to Donald Quarrie’s 200 gold in Montreal all the way to the Reggae Boyz qualification for the World Cup in 1998 to the exploits of our current crop of international athletic stars. Such a museum can be an attraction for people from all across the world to see and respect. It would also be a good way in which to honour those who have been undeservedly forgotten.

Much needs to be done and I would hope that the lip service that has been paid to sports development over the years will be replaced by deliberate action that in the long run will make Jamaica a much better place for business of sport.

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  1. Dora says:

    If sport is expected to be an economic driver for our country, then may God help us? Where have you ever seen it done? One can earn from it but a driver? i think not. Besides we do not have strong industries locally which can exploit the celebrity status of our winners. Look at the countries that survive the economic crisis; they had manufacturing industries.

  2. GOODS says:

    What I got from the article was that Sports would initiate. According to “Driver” Jamaica is awash with talent; talent that is grossly under utilize. I agree with him that we are not making use of what we are good at. @Dora Jamaica has always been the exception to the rule. It is time that we stop cutting our blue prints from other countries that do not fit us. Where else in the world do you have so much talent per square mile in a small country? The world is still amazed by this phenomenon. Reggae Stars, Actors and Actresses, Track Athletes,Cricket, Boxers etc. Thats a lot of tax dollars going largely to European, American, Asian and to a lesser extent African nations> All we need to do is get the right plan and impliment it. It can not be the only part but it is a catalyst.

  3. chris says:

    I agree with the prior comment about the economic value of sports as an economic driver. A Bolt is a once in a lifetime gift. Planning sustaining economic activity around one person’s performance is risky at best to be polite.
    Ideas that leverage hard assets and adding differential factors (such as knowledge to improve plausibility ) would offer more promise than this fool’s errand idea.

  4. Dora says:

    @Goods…Barbados has very few exceptional qualities, but look at their economic performance relative to ours. Where has all this exceptional qualities gotten us?

  5. fraser says:

    There was intent to begin the process of using sports to generate income at the international level, but the divergent views of the individuals that occupied the throne of sports minister has delayed such an improvement. G C Foster would have been the crown jewel in an idea that had matured, with the use of Sports Advisory Councils & Sports Development Foundation to channel the human resource up to the national levels, but myopia in high places always leaves us scrambling. Sports as an economic booster was the PNP’s baby, well the child has grown up; let’s see how they can deal with it

  6. Messengjah says:

    The responses from some on this blog, while having some merit, also highlights what is keeping back Jamaica – the lack of vision. Many love the comfort zone and are contented to remain therein, but it is a known fact that risks, when properly calculated, can also bring great rewards. I think this is what Delano Franklyn and Lis Hanna were alluding to when they trumpet the cause for sports development and using it also as an economic stimulus. Jamaica may not have an abundance of entrepreneurial talent, but that should not be the reason for not seriously exploring the enormous economic potential in attendance with our sports acumen. If we have to get help from seasoned professionals outside the country, then that option should be considered.

  7. Dcool says:

    England will be making a lot of money from the next Olympic without any star player.What would the games be without Jamaica? A complete failure.H ow much do Jamaica benefit financially from it? we need to maximize our gains.we should negotiate to have the world governing bodies spend some of the profit developing the sports here.proper tracks everywhere etc.
    We could plant more yams,package them and have the world eating the foods of our athletes especially Bolt. Farmers would benefit greatly from this.Over to you Roger Clarke and Grace.

  8. robbie robinson says:

    It’s a concept whose time has arrived. But it won’t be easy. Lets not fool ourselves into believing that without Jamaica the Olympics will flop. That’s simply not true. The Olympics are more than track and field as the world is much more than Jamaica.We need the world. The world does not need us. But we must learn to market our products better.

    Hollywood for instance is a major part of America’s culture but I am not sure it drives their economy. But I believe the writer is correct from the perspective that if we develop this concept now, it can become significant. Just remember though, Usain Bolt is one in a million and will not be around forever.
    Let us get going now

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8 comments so far
levyl Posted by: levyl December 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm