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VIDEO: Olympic swell

Ja to send largest delegation ever to London Games; 24 million demands for 6 million tickets

BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012    

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JAMAICA is expected to send its largest delegation of athletes and officials ever to the London Olympics this summer amidst sold-out demands for spectator tickets from Jamaicans at home.

First vice-president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and chef de mission for Jamaica's team to five games so far, Don Anderson, said the country's delegation to this year's Olympics will comprise some 90 persons, 60 of whom are expected to be athletes.

"That would be the largest team we have ever taken abroad for an Olympic game," Anderson told reporters and editors yesterday during the weekly Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.

The country's second largest delegation — 53 athletes and 33 officials — was that to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

According to Anderson, the officials for this Olympic delegation will include managers and coaches for each discipline, doctors, physiotherapist and masseuse. There is a consideration for a psychologist but this is not yet decided.

"This is all on the basis of a quota system, so if you have 60 athletes it entitles you to so many officials and you can't go outside of it," he said.

With track and field making up the largest segment of the contingent, Anderson said there will be more qualifiers for the London Olympics than for that in Beijing.

These games, scheduled for July 27 to August 12, have also seemingly attracted the largest spectator support with the JOA now having a long waiting list for Jamaicans seeking to secure tickets.

"The demand has been really significant and this is coming at a time when the ticket costs, in my view, are astronomical," Anderson said.

Tickets for the choice seats in the 100-metre final cost US$1,382, while the cheapest ticket is about US$300.

Anderson said Jamaica has never had a request for spectator tickets outside of the year of the Olympic Games, however persons began sending in requests as early as last year January.

While he was unable to recall the exact figure, Anderson said Jamaica was allotted a couple thousand tickets but within three months it became clear they would have to press the ticket retailers for more.

"We have gone back to them and they are working assiduously to get that to us and we still have about 30 persons on the waiting list for either all the tickets they requested or some of the tickets," he said.

He explained that there are six million tickets printed for all the events in the Olympic Games, however the demand soared to 24 million two months ago.

"Today when someone calls and says I want to go to the Olympics I kind of bow my head because there is absolutely no way unless you get lucky," he said.

Meanwhile, Jamaica will be represented in at least four disciplines, namely track and field, taekwondo, equestrian, and swimming, with the significant representation being in track and field.

Preparation for Jamaica's delegation to the prestigious sporting event began from last year January, according to Anderson.

"The amount of planning which precedes the departure for the Olympic Games is something the public doesn't fully understand, but the planning takes like a year-and-a-half," he said.

The Olympics is awarded to a country/city seven years before the games are held because of the amount of work to be done to get everything in place.

With Jamaica's preparation in the peak stage, Anderson said we are now at the stage where regular weekly meetings are being held with respective team managers of the disciplines which are likely to participate.

Given the intense security measures in place, the deadline for the submission of the long list of potential athletes to the games is this Friday and this cannot be missed.

"This means any athlete who has the remotest possibility of being selected to the team has to be on that long list, as you can cut from the long list but you cannot add to it," Anderson explained, adding that the list must also entail the biographical details of all the athletes.

Jamaica will be submitting between 150 and 180 names on the long list to facilitate the provisional accreditation process, however this will be later chopped to about 90 persons.

Explaining how the process works, Anderson said the advance party, comprising himself and his deputy, will arrive in London on July 23 to finalise the rigorous registration process before the Jamaican team can have access to the Olympic Village.

With some 204 Olympic committees from countries around the world securing their delegation's place in the Village, Anderson said Jamaica has had to book the time for the Delegation Registration Meeting six months ago.

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