A cash-strapped Jamaican government, with combined state and private funds, has put together a little bit more than $57-million to honour and celebrate the nation's athletes to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
At a press launch of the Heroes' Day weekend of activities, Jamaica's Olympians will be fittingly saluted with a grand homecoming celebration that will include a church service to be held at East Queen Street Baptist Church at 10:00 am and a cocktail reception to be hosted by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at Jamaica House at 6:00 pm on Sunday, October 14.
On Heroes' Day, Monday, October 15, there will be a wreath-laying and unveiling of a headstone for the Honourable Herbert McKenley at National Heroes Park at 4:00 pm. This will be followed by the main public event at 7:00 pm under the theme "Jamaica's Musical History: Honouring our Olympic Journey" at the National Arena.
This massive public event will be a celebration of Jamaica's diverse culture.
And for those who will not be able to find a place in the 6,000-capacity National Arena, large television screens will be set up at central locations and in communities to view the live activities.
Minister with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, in addressing yesterday's press launch at Jamaica House, said only the best is good enough for the athletes who did the nation proud with their record haul of 12 medals in London — four gold, four silver and four bronze.
"Where there is excellence, we must appreciate it in an excellent way. This celebration is for individuals who have represented their country and communities in an excellent way and will be an appreciation of them," she said.
And to show its appreciation for their exploits in London, the government has set aside some $30 million of the aforementioned budget to go directly into offering cash gifts to the athletes and officials.
For an athlete winning an individual gold, the cash gift is $1 million, the silver medal winners get $750,000 and bronze medallist $500,000. For each athlete making a final $350,000 will be the reward, while each participant will take home $250,000. For a relay gold, $3 million will be the bounty, while silver fetches $2.4 million, and the bronze medal-winning team collects $1.8 million.
In a breakdown of the other expenditures, the church service will cost $50,000, Prime Minister's reception $4.5 million, tombstone and wreath laying $285,000, airfare, accommodation and meals for 21 athletes $2.5 million, and main event at the National Arena $20 million. At final count, the total bill for the entire project will be $57,385,000.
The bulk of the money will come from the state-run Sports Development Foundation/CHASE Fund ($25 million), followed by the private sector ($20 million), Ministry of Tourism ($8 million) and the Office of the Prime Minister ($4.5 million).
Meanwhile, long-standing sponsor of Jamaica's track and field LIME has signed on as a major sponsor of the homecoming celebration. Signing up at the 'world record-holder' level, LIME will be helping to facilitate the broadcast of the televised event to viewing centres which will be set up in various parishes across the island.
"We remain committed to supporting the talent and growth of our athletes and so in this time of celebration, we are making a special effort to ensure that our global ambassadors receive a hero-worthy reception for their tremendous achievements," said Chris Dehring, LIME chairman.
Fifty athletes in four sporting disciplines — track and field, swimming, taekwondo and equestrian — represented the country at the London Olympics and were led by the mercurial sprinter, Usain Bolt. There were also 23 accompanying officials.
Jamaica also fielded a three-member team to the Paralympic Games, with Alphanso Cunningham winning a gold medal in the javelin throw.
The government was guided by the proposals of the Athletes Celebration Committee that had its first meeting August 24, and the four events were agreed on to recognise the athletes and officials and celebrate Jamaica's success.