Ja eyes Diamond League series bid for 2014

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter

Friday, January 25, 2013

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THE Jamaican Government says it is committed to putting the structures in place to bid for a leg of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Samsung Diamond League athletic series, starting in August 2014.


Minister without portfolio with responsibility for Sport Natalie Neita-Headley and Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) vice-president Don Anderson made the revelation at the Jamaica Stock Exchange's Investments and Capital Markets Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel yesterday.


Anderson said the country, which already stages the Jamaica International Invitational Meet — an IAAF World Challenge event — on an annual basis, would be ideal to stage a Diamond League meet as it is currently the third-ranked country in terms of Diamond League winners over the last three years.


Only the United States, with 24, and Kenya, with 18, have produced more than the seven winners Jamaica has. Olympic 100m champions Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 400m hurdler Kaliese Spencer and 200m specialist Nickel Ashmeade are all reigning Diamond League champions.


To make a bid to the IAAF, Jamaica would need to provide evidence it is able to fund the US$416,000 purse for a five-year period, while appearance fees for each athlete would also be provided.


As it relates to facilities for hosting the one-day meet, Anderson was confident both the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay and the National Stadium in Kingston would be suitable venues.


While the St James-based facility is much smaller, he said the compound itself is large enough that stands could be installed to accommodate the expected 20,000-plus spectators.


Neita-Headley said there are plans in place to make adjustments to the National Stadium, such as the installation of covers over the bleachers section, which would also make the venue more attractive.


However, Kingston has only 2,500 hotel rooms, which would not be enough for overnight visitors, but proper road infrastructure would make a journey from out of town easier for those who choose to stay outside the capital.


Meanwhile, Neita-Headley stated that the Government was prepared to make the area leading to the National Stadium into single-lane traffic to ease congestion on Diamond League day. Arrangements would also be put in place to ensure ease of transit at the airports upon arrival and departure.


She said the Government was well prepared to support the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) to engage the Diamond League franchise owners with the aim of bringing the series of top-class one-day athletic events to Jamaica.


The minister added that the Government was making an appeal to the private sector, but also suggested that already, a number of parties were expressing keen interest in the idea.


"The Diamond League in Jamaica would give all athletes a fair chance to get exposure. They see Jamaica as the mecca and they want to experience first-hand the adulation," the minister said.


"We have a solid foundation in track and field. We are the solid rock on which to hold a Diamond League," Neita-Headley emphasised.


Jamaica's location would also be ideal to attract visitors from the rest of the Caribbean, the United States, Central and South America.


"We would find no problem in attracting athletes from Europe, Asia, and Africa," said Neita-Headley. "The Diamond League in Jamaica would automatically become the Reggae Diamond League," she said, adding that discussions with IAAF boss Lamine Diack had been positive.


"Through hosting a meeting in Jamaica, the Diamond League would have had a worldwide appeal," she added.


Meanwhile, Anderson said it would now be left up to the JAAA to make an application. There are currently 14 IAAF Samsung Diamond League meetings held in Europe, Asia and the United States.


 

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