After the success of Jamaica House...

Sunday, August 19, 2012    

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IF Usain Bolt was the undoubted star of the London 2012 Olympics, then Jamaica House was one of the success stories.

In common with other participating nations, Jamaica set up a special temporary venue to mark the Olympics. By common consent it was the best. And Jamaica House wasn't just a hub for all those interested in all things Jamaican and the Olympics. It was also used as the setting for a very moving flag-raising ceremony on Independence Day.

Jamaica House took up part of the O2, better known as the iconic Millennium Dome in South East London. It was an excellent venue. Part of the Dome was being used for Olympic events anyway, and it was very close to the main Olympic Park. So, once you were there, you really felt part of London 2012.

As well as a giant screen to watch the Games, there was a stage with musicians and other entertainers; film screenings; a range of bars providing the best in Jamaican alcoholic refreshment; a popular shop selling a full range of Jamaican goods, and the finest of DJs.

Across from Jamaica House was another Jamaica-themed space, the "Terrace". It had yet another bar, musicians, DJs, super-sized television screens and delicious authentic Jamaican food provided by Jamaican caterers led by Plantation Inn, one of the finest caterers in London.

At the heart of Jamaica House was a spacious VIP section where potential investors could relax. And in the daytime there were a series of seminars. There was something for everyone — whether you wanted to watch the triumphs of Jamaican athletes on a giant screen, eat jerk chicken, drink rum punch or do it all at the same time.

Anyone doubting the popularity of Jamaica House with Britain's Jamaican diaspora should have been there on Independence Day when thousands of people queued to get in. It was packed every day and on the closing day of the Olympics the last revellers did not leave until early morning.

But Jamaica House was not just popular with the diaspora. British sports fans soon realised it was the place to be and could be seen mingling on the terrace sipping a rum punch and watching the athletics.

It was also a big draw for businessmen. Over two weeks, when Usain Bolt was the biggest draw in town, businessmen and women flocked to Jamaica House for the atmosphere. And they stayed to hear about the investment opportunities. It featured regularly on television, and JAMPRO said that journalists who would not take their calls before were pleased to turn up to the famed Jamaica House.

The challenge for Jamaica, in business terms, is to build on the huge boost that Brand Jamaica has experienced from the stellar performances of its athletes. Any fan walking around London in their Jamaican colours during the Olympic fortnight will have realised how much warmth there is towards Jamaica.

We need to capitalise on that. High-profile events like Jamaica House which celebrate Jamaican history, culture and way of life are important in promoting the island.

Diane Abbott is the British Labour Party's spokeswoman on public health



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