WHILE there is no denying Jamaica has come a far way in sports over the last 50 years since gaining political independence from Great Britain, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson believes this may also be the path to future economic development.
"Jamaica has its own unique brand (and) that's part of the economic direction that we have to pursue," Patterson said at yesterday's weekly Monday Exchange of editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer's Beechwood Avenue headquarters.
Patterson cited names such as Merlene Ottey, Donald Quarrie, George Headley, Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, and Dennis Johnson, as well as the Olympic bobsled team, as examples of the achievements Jamaica had made in sport not only after, but prior to Independence.
"For a country of our size to produce athletes of such high quality is remarkable. I think we've really said, 'Jamaica to the world', and no accolade is too high not just for what the athletes have done, but for the training, facilities, (and) application fo national skills," he stated.
Patterson noted that what Jamaica could boast about in sport extends beyond the last 50 years. He cited the popularity of Olympic gold medallist Arthur Wint, who in 1948 was situated in Finland while serving as high commissioner in London.
"Arthur Wint was like God," Patterson said.
Patterson suggested that Jamaicans, despite often boasting of the country's achievements in the areas of music and sport, were not aware of just how important those achievements are.
"I think very often when we say it we don't recognise how far that goes," he said
More and more, he noted, Jamaica and its Caribbean neighbours could no longer look towards the traditional means of economic advancement such as sugar, bananas and bauxite, but would have to turn to other areas of sport and culture for its economic development.
"Niche areas of sports and culture linked with tourism linked with the services sector... this is something that is related to the path of our future development," he said.