Awaiting Champs' five days of excellence
WE, like many fans of track and field, are already salivating at the feast that awaits us next week when the 104th ISSA/ GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships get under way at the National Stadium in Kingston.
More than 2,500 athletes from 205 of the island's secondary schools are expected to match skills over the five days of competition that will culminate on Saturday.
Champs, as it is more popularly referred to, is easily the best and most impressive athletics meet of its kind in the world, and ISSA is to be congratulated for expertly organising the event each year.
But equal kudos must go to major sponsors GraceKennedy, which is this year pumping a whopping $36.75 million into the event. That, we hold, is a big statement of support for the development of track and field in Jamaica. For Champs is easily the arena where mediocrity yields to performance of the highest standard.
Mr Don Wehby, group CEO of the 92-year-old GraceKennedy, told the recent press launch of the championships that he felt a huge sense of pride every time he hears his organisation's name linked with the event.
And so he should, because Champs is also the event that moulds Jamaica's future stars in the sport in which we have had a long and proud history.
But Mr Wehby said as much at the launch when he told guests that his company — which is spending an additional $30 million on marketing — doesn't think of the money they are spending as cash sponsorship. "This is an investment in our young people and in Jamaica," he said.
That the company has seen it fit to offer $150,000 and a $25,000 gift certificate from Hi-Lo Food Stores to each winning coach this year speaks to its commitment to ensuring that quality is maintained at the level.
Quality, of course, has been a hallmark of GraceKennedy and has, in fact, made the company a household name in Jamaica and in the diaspora for many years.
Against the backdrop of that level of commitment, and the usual high standard of the event, we hope that spectators will exhibit the kind of behaviour that will make us all proud. For the championships will be watched by many people around the world, given Jamaica's dominant status in world athletics.
We expect vigorous competition mixed with deep respect for rivals, because moulding human character, we hold, is one of the purposes of sport.
With that said, we again congratulate ISSA, GraceKennedy and the other sponsors for their contribution to Jamaica's athletics programme.
Now, we look forward to five days of excellence.