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Jamaicans streaming into London for Olympics

By INGRID BROWN

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 8:49 AM    

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MANY flights are fully booked, and Jamaican branded items, especially those bearing the image of the world's fastest man Usain Bolt, are flying off the shelves at the island's airports as Jamaicans leave for London for the Olympic games and Jamaica 50 celebrations.

At least one duty free shop at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston said it cannot stock these items fast enough to meet the demand which is way in excess of what it was this time last year.

Employee at the Casa de Xaymaca store at the NMIA, Stacy Ann Manning, told the Observer that the biggest support is from passengers departing for the United Kingdom (UK).

"It has been extremely busy here," she said. The most sought after items, she further explained, are the Bolt T-shirts, most of which are already gone, and Jamaica 50 items.

The store was also having a difficult time replenishing the items fast enough as the Observer was told that Sun Island, supplier of the products, can hardly keep up with the demand.

Several passengers travelling on British Airways (BA) yesterday were visiting the UK for the sole purpose of attending the Olympic Games which begin on July 27 through to August 12.

Meanwhile, BA said flights are very busy in both directions.

"Even though July and August are normally peak travel months, we have seen increased demand this year," BA said

The airline has since increased its two weekly non-stop flights from Kingston to Gatwick to three, to accommodate the large number of travellers.

"This change was based on a number of factors, not just demand as a result of one event," the airline said.

The airline said it is also seeing some travellers flying to London via Miami through its partnership with American Airlines. According to BA, there has been a slight trend towards earlier bookings for travel this summer, with many persons securing their seats as soon as the fares became available last year.

Jackie Innis, one of the many Jamaicans making the trip to London, said she and her three girlfriends have been planning for this occasion for the last four years.

In addition to attending the games, Annette Griffiths said they will also use the month-long trip to take a bus tour of Europe, visiting such places as Sweden, Denmark, Amsterdam, Germany, Switzerland and France.

"It is going to be sheer excitement in London and the fact that we are expecting so many medals, we want to be a part of the celebration," Innis told the Observer.

The fact that this is their first time at the Olympic Games is not coincidental as the women said they opted to attend this event because of the significance of Jamaica's presence in the United Kingdom.

"We have many Jamaicans in London as well as friends and family and so we wanted to be here," Innis said, adding that their tickets were booked from February. They explained that by booking that early they were able to save $40,000 on each ticket, paying $128,000 instead of the  $168,000 some last minute travellers were forced to fork out. As for the much sought after Olympic tickets, the women said those were bought from last July, immediately after they went on sale.

As for the Jamaica 50 T-shirts, the women said they took a large amount to ensure that they fully represent Jamaica.

"I have about 11 Jamaican colour tops; one for every day," said Griffiths whose nails were even adorned in the Jamaican colours.

And while they will not be in Jamaica to be a part of the Jamaica 50 events, the women said they do not feel as if they are missing out on too much since they are expecting the celebrations overseas to be just as exciting.

Meanwhile, taxi operators in London are also benefiting from the Jamaicans needing transportation from the airport to their respective destinations. Ronald Bernard said he has been transporting quite a few Jamaicans in the last few weeks as business becomes brisker close to the start of the games.

"You can tell who are Jamaicans because most of the time they are wearing their colours proudly," he said.

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