At the end of the London Olympics we saw the closure of the much-vaunted Jamaica House at the O2 Arena, located near the Olympic Village.
Initially, visitors noted the three different areas where people could congregate: Jamaica House, Proud 2 and The Terrace. Jamaica House had the main stage big screen, food and drinks outlets; Proud 2, a bar with two smaller screens and The Terrace, an outdoor area with bed-seating, bar and food outlets. In addition, attached to Jamaica House was a Things Jamaican store selling Jamaican merchandise.
Without a doubt, it was a great space for us Jamaicans, friends and well-wishers to celebrate our athletes' spectacular achievements and to revel in the party atmosphere. But, like many others, I was disappointed that Jamaica House failed to provide information about Jamaica: that is, history, infrastructure, business opportunities, education or vision. While Things Jamaican did a roaring business, this particular opportunity should have been widened to other businesses, allowing them also to display and benefit from their wares being sold to the hundreds of customers who passed through their doors.
In terms of logistics, it was a nightmare. People could book online for one day only; if they wished to return for other days, they were unable to do so. To add to the confusion, people who registered online and turned up were unable to enter because they were not on the register/attendance list. They would then line up on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, there was no provision for young children, disabled people or the elderly, especially if they had to wait in a line for hours on end.
Bear in mind that hundreds of visitors passed through the Jamaica House doors over the 16 days - it opened from 4 pm to 12 midnight. There was nothing to engage the audience for that length of time, even though the entertainers who did perform in small segments did a very commendable job.
For me there was nothing in Jamaica House that a regular visitor to Jamaica, child, elderly person, potential returning resident or tourist, could have learnt about Jamaica's past, where it's at, or the direction for the nation's future. Other than showing people how well we can run and party - which we already know - we failed to show the hundreds of visitors what else they could learn or what Jamaica is good at. Things like our creativity, manufacturing or techonolgy industries, business opportunities or where to visit off the beaten track. What the organisers did create were brief morning sessions where selected invitees were able to attend and obtain information from visiting ministers. This process excluded many potential investors from the general public.
Overall, the objectives for Jamaica House remain unclear. In comparison, Birmingham had a successful event. So, what was the main aim for JH? What did it set out to achieve? The question is (even though JH was beautifully decorated and lavishly furnished), what was the real return on invesment for Jamaica, in real monetary terms, economic or employment opportunities?
Really, there were a number of things wrong with Jamaica House from logistics, access, lack of information to marketing and general organisation, and I feel we missed a great opprtunity to truly connect with the diaspora, and the wider local, national and international public. Though disappointed with JH in its entirety, I must say it was a great place to be for the vibe and celebrating our success on the track, music and food!