It's finally here.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy landed at the Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica at precisely 11:00 am yesterday, exactly 90 minutes after departing Panama City on a Danish Air Transport private jet beautifully decorated in the red, white, green and yellow colours of Coca-Cola.
Jamaica became the first Caribbean country in this third staging of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola and the seventh country since it departed Brazil in mid-September. It travelled to the pacific countries of Tahiti, Fiji and Vanuatu, before arriving in Costa Rica on September 27, then on to Honduras and Panama.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour is slated to run for 267 days, and includes 89 countries. It returns to Brazil on April 21, next year.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; Natalie Neita-Headley, the minister responsible for sports; Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football (JFF) Federation; William Mahfood, managing director of Wisynco Group, the distributors of Coca-Cola; as well as Coca-Cola executives Jeremy Faa and Daniel Saenz were among guests who were on hand to officially welcome the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour at the Norman Manley International Airport in a brief ceremony.
Prior to the ceremony on the ground, Simpson Miller and a select group boarded the jet to experience a first viewing of the trophy made of 18-carat gold, weighing 6.175 grammes and standing at 36.8 centimetres high. The names and years of all winners of the FIFA World Cup Finals since 1974 are inscribed on the base, which still has space to accommodate the winners up to 2030.
The Prime Minister told the Jamaica Observer that she was "very proud for the fact that it (trophy) is here and that Jamaica is the first Caribbean country to receive this prestigious visit".
She added that the presence of the trophy represents a "feel good factor" for the people of the country at this time and she hopes to "see the joy and excitement of us welcoming this beautiful lady to Jamaica".
For Mahfood, the experience that Coca-Cola will be creating for the people of Jamaica over the next two days, gave him "goose bumps".
Captain Burrell said it was a "historic day, because the FIFA World Cup Trohpy is coming to the Caribbean for the first time and Jamaica is the first stop".
"Let me hasten to say that I think Coca-Cola got it right, because Jamaica was the the first English-speaking Caribbean country to have qualified for the World Cup, and is deserving of this honour," he added, before making a pitch for continued support from Coca-Cola, for the JFF and its senior football programme.
"Only recently Coca-Cola came on board as a sponsor of the football, that is sponsoring the Jamaica Football Federation and as you all know we have a project. We just hired the services of a German coach and speaking with the officials of Coca-Cola, I made it quite clear that we will be having further dialogue in this regard."
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister warned Jamaicans attending today's FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour Fan Experience at the National Arena not to touch the trophy.
"It is interesting to consider how far and wide the FIFA World Cup has travelled, so precious is this iconic trophy, the most coveted Cup in the world of sports, that it travels in 'her' own, private plane, and I'm sure the trophy is woman," the PM said to much laughter.
"When I looked at her she was shining so brightly, and anyone would be desirous to touch her, but let me give a word of caution to all the people who will be viewing. No one will be allowed to touch the trophy. Do not try to, do not attempt to, not even the Prime Minister is allowed to touch it. Not even the Governor General will be allowed to touch it, no one except those managing 'her' will be able to touch 'her', 'she' is very special."
Simpson Miller said it gave her "great joy to be here this morning (yesterday) to welcome the arrival of a priceless and prestigious visitor to Jamaica, the original, authentic, 18-carat Gold FIFA World Cup Trophy.
"As a nation of sports lovers and die-hard football fans, we are thrilled that our country is the first in the Caribbean to be included in a World Cup Tour. For this privilege, I say thanks to FIFA, the international governing body of football, and the organisers of the most exciting sporting event in the world outside of the Olympics.
"I must also thank the international sponsors of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, the association's long-standing partners, Coca-Cola, represented here in Jamaica by the Wisynco Group."
The country's head of government noted that the World Cup has deep meaning for all Jamaicans as it recaptures memories of some of the most unforgettable memories of the 1998 World Cup Finals appearance in France by the Reggae Boyz.
"That was when Jamaican culture took Paris by storm, even as the Reggae Boyz battled" on the field of play, she said.
She used the opportunity to pay tribute to FIFA for its valuable work in the development of football, and for preserving the integrity of the game.
She also said she was motivated by the many children who go to bed dreaming of playing in the World Cup competition one day and with the Cup being here, it has brought the excitement of the greatest football competition in the world a little closer to them here in Jamaica, as well as those who follow the competitions on television.
"Now, they can make a more personal connection with the competition," she said.
And she is urging Burrell and his players to work harder to revisit the World Cup Finals, she lauded those administrators and former players who have paved the way and continue to pave the way forward.
FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour Fan Experience Today
Meanwhile, between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm today, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour will feature symbols of vibrant Brazilian culture with music and dance. Ticket holders will be treated to games such as Football Tennis, videos including Jamaica's first ever hologram theatre featuring a 15-minute presentation about the FIFA World Cup.
The Wall of Happiness inside the tour allows every fan who comes through to sketch their names or a graphic on the 100ft-long wall. Jamaicans from all walks of life will be immortalised by leaving their mark that they were present at that historic day in football history.
The wall will be later divided into sections and framed to be donated to schools, government offices and charitable organisations to share in this momentous occasion.
There will be so much to see and feel at the Trophy Tour including an up close view of the trophy, and a snapshot keepsake for all in attendance with the trophy.
Jamaicans will get a chance to see David Correy performing the song, The World is Ours live. This entertaining and historic experience comes to the thousands of Jamaicans who redeemed four specially marked Coca-Cola 20oz and 355ml labels for tickets to attend the showcase.