Diamond League deliberation a logical step

From the Sports Desk

With Hartley Anderson

Sunday, January 27, 2013

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CONSIDERING the status quo in world athletics, nothing would be more deserved than Jamaica hosting a leg of the prestigious 14-meet IAAF Samsung Diamond League series.

And this is the thinking of the Jamaican government, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and presumably, the Jamaica Administrative Athletic Association (JAAA), based on a report carried in this newspaper late last week which indicated that the country will, in fact, make a bid for the 2014 season.


In hoping this vision materialises, one is nonetheless aware of the considerable financial and logistical demands of staging such a high-calibre event, which, one assumes, would replace the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) Meet. I daresay, however, that any such sacrifice is well worth it.


It is to the credit of the local track and field fraternity, under the long-time stewardship of the JAAA, that from an officiating perspective, Jamaica could make a seamless transition in delivering a meet of the highest professional standards. This is based on the number of individuals who are already qualified in the various facets of athletic management, as well as the frequency with which they ply their trade on a dynamic local circuit, and despite the blunders at the last JII Meet at the National Stadium.


Already, one cannot help but be thrilled at the spin-offs that could accrue from this venture. The country would be further boosted as a tourism destination, with the capital, in particular, poised to receive deserved attention as the island's cultural hub.


In addition, one can envision an influx of foreigners to the birthplace of Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and Usain Bolt, with the latter to play a pivotal role in the promotion of the event -- as he does for virtually all the destinations that presently comprise the lucrative series anyway.


As the report further stated, hotel rooms would be in high demand for such an event, but despite the availability of only some 2,500 conveniences in the Corporate Area, our relatively small size renders travelling to Kingston from, say, the North Coast, a virtual non-issue.


Naturally, such an undertaking would require a cooperative and vibrant input from the business fraternity which stands to benefit most. Its contribution could come in any form, from providing discounted accommodation to subsidising the basic prize monies, projected to be in the region of US$416,000.


In fact, as we ponder this important project, the government would be well advised to 'privatise' it as much as possible as apart from the aforementioned costs, a major expense is appearance fees for these global stars, which could easily run an additional half-a-million US dollars.


A tangible justification for this bold step is steeped in the sport itself, with Jamaica being the premier sprint oufit for the past five years, starting with the Beijing Games and ending with the London edition last summer. In fact, not only do we have four current Diamond League title-holders in Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Nickel Ashmeade and Kaliese Spencer, but we also rank third overall behind the United States and Kenya in producing Diamond League champions since this lucrative series replaced the Golden League series in 2010.


This, therefore, is an excellent opportunity to capitalise on our successes on the track while alleviating the anxieties of sitting on our laurels since taking the world by storm in 2008. The truth is that while so far we have been lethargic in sustaining the momentum of our popularity, it is better late than never.


Again, I suspect that the IAAF, along with the title sponsors, would be delighted to have Jamaica as an alternative destination since, like every other world governing body, it is mandated to spread its wings in promoting its sport. That after having its genesis in Europe, the series has since expanded to Qatar, China and the US is testimony to the mission of enhancing the worldwide appeal of athletics by going outside that continent.


With each of the existing venues lending a unique cultural value to the Diamond League experience, it not only augurs well for the sport, but in this particular case, would offer Jamaican athletes the rare opportunity of performing in front of their own fans, which, assuredly, would rank highly among their experiences.


As was seen in the packed houses at the last two JII meets, along with the overwhelming turnout at the 2002 World Junior Championships at the National Stadium, the meet would be a major hit with fans, with the charged atmosphere likely to yield special performances. As to the suggestion of adding the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay, this is unrealistic as at this stage it cannot accommodate the projected minimum 20,000 seats.


In revealing that a number of private entities are already showing interest in the proposal and that there has been positive feedback so far from discussion with IAAF boss Lamine Diack, Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, correctly argued that "we would find no problem in attracting athletes from Europe, Asia, and Africa".


She scored a major point when she suggested that "The Diamond League in Jamaica would automatically become the Reggae Diamond League."


In concurring, diehard Jamaican fans of track and field are definitely saying, "Let's get it on."



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