COUNTRIES in the region, including Jamaica, have not fully capitalised on the earning capacity and cultural influence that sport can have.
That's the argument from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her address at the opening ceremony of the extraordinary general meeting of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, which she officially declared opened.
"We need to link with cultural and creative realities... sport is the most powerful unifying force in the world," said Simpson Miller. The PASO meeting, which concludes today, has brought together sporting delegates from the Pan American region, including cities bidding for the 2019 Pan American Games — Santiago, Chile, and Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela. Representatives from Peru, Bolivia and Mexico are also in attendance.
Simpson Miller, who was in 2007 presented with the world trophy for development of women in sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), invited the visitors to experience "the happiest country in the world".
The prime minister, who is also the minister of sport, noted that strategies and policies need to be defined that will help to enhance economic performance. She said that Jamaica was currently in the process of doing just that with the development of a national sports policy which is currently evolving.
The sports policy was completed in December, and the white paper was approved by Cabinet and it is hoped to be passed by Parliament later this year.
Meanwhile, minister without portfolio with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, said the ability for Jamaica to host such an important meeting demonstrated Jamaica's ability to be able to also host international (sporting) events.
"This special meeting for us really shows the international capacity of our Jamaican team and our Jamaican Olympic Association (JOA)," Neita-Headley told the Jamaica Observer.
"I think this is going to continue to strengthen the ties between us and countries in the region," she added.