THERE is an intriguing story in yesterday's Sunday Observer about a push by The Bahamas to make sports a major engine of growth for its huge tourism industry. Those who haven't read it, should.
Much has been said in Jamaica about sports and its potential as a money spinner — especially since this island of 2.7 million is the envy of the world in terms of sporting achievement.
But as Assistant Sports Editor Mr Sean Williams pointed out in yesterday's story, the Bahamians aren't just "talking the talk, they are walking the walk".
To be fair, the Jamaican Government, pinned to the ropes by the need to restructure an indebted and dysfunctional economy under an IMF-supervised programme, is in no position to spend on sports infrastructure as The Bahamas is now doing.
Yet, there is fair, if not fully developed, sporting and entertainment infrastructure in Jamaica, such as the Trelawny Stadium and Sabina Park — both underutilised for no reason, other than a chronic absence of vision.
A small dose of vision would have ensured that lights to facilitate events at night were installed at both stadiums, either before the ICC Cricket World Cup of 2007 or since, especially because well over US$60 million had already been spent. Lights would have multiplied the marketability and utility of both venues to exploit sports and entertainment as economic drivers.
Instead — as we are wont to do — those who should know better quarrelled and scrapped like crabs in a barrel over how much had already been spent.
Fortunately, it's not too late. And also, we sense a growing recognition, not just in Government, but in the wider community that there is real profit to be had from the maximising of sporting facilities in Jamaica, given the country's comparative advantage.
In that regard we are heartened by the recent unanimity of message from former Prime Minister PJ Patterson and that champion of industry, Mr Douglas Orane, regarding the need to act urgently on the installation of lights at Sabina.
All concerned should also spare a thought for the Trelawny Stadium where because of its geographical location on the corridor from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, the potential for sports tourism is immense.
We are encouraged by the pledge late last month from sports minister, Ms Natalie Neita Headley, that the long-awaited National Sports Policy would have been tabled in Parliament within two weeks. If we are to hold her to her word, that would mean this week.
According to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Ms Neita Headley has said that the National Sports Policy will guide the framework for overall national sports development.
We recommend that as our parliamentarians and the wider society set about analysing the sports policy, they take on board the example being set in Treasure Beach, south-west St Elizabeth. There, a vibrant indigenous movement, led by the community organisation BREDS, is building a project aimed at filling hotel rooms with sports-related visitors. Crucially, they are not waiting on government or anyone else to do the project for them.
The people of Treasure Beach aren't just talking the talk, they are walking the walk.