Fennell urges administrators, Gov't to be brave when investing in legacy of sports

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Fennell urges administrators, Gov't to be brave when investing in legacy of sports

Sunday, January 17, 2021

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Jamaica's sports administrators and Government appear yet to value the legacy of hosting major sporting events in the island and have not shown the courage taken by the country's forefathers in investing in sports, says former Commonwealth Games President Mike Fennell.

While admitting that Jamaica's fragile economy made bidding for major events difficult, Fennell said too many of those in management were afraid of risk, reminding that were it not for risk-taking by our forefathers Jamaica might not have built the National Stadium at the time it was constructed in the early 1960s.

He was the guest speaker at last Thursday's virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston and was responding to a question about the Government's plans to make Jamaica a leader of sports tourism in the region.

Fennell, a former president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), said he could not speak on behalf of the Government, but offered his personal opinion.

“One of the things is that we are afraid to take certain risks...firstly we articulate the fact that we are ready to host events, but hosting a big event and really making a flow of events take place require a financial commitment and financial guarantee, otherwise there are other places who will do this,” he noted.

Fennell admitted that it would take a stable economy to be able to host major sporting events on a regular basis.

“Our economy is such that it would be very difficult for a government to give a sovereign guarantee for things when they are under a particular difficult period with the economy,” he said. “It is still possible to do this and I don't think that some of the management people are prepared for the risks that are involved.”

Fennell went on to say: “The other point I would like to make is that we have not learnt how to value the legacy of hosting these events, other countries who are doing it are very satisfied with the money they have spent because of the value of legacy.

“Most people in Jamaica value the legacy based on the bricks and mortar, but there are other values that we have not yet understood how to put in place.”

Fennell said the current administrators have not learnt from the lessons set over 50 years ago.

“I go a step further to say that our forefathers who were prepared to take those risks did so and we need to learn from them...when the National Stadium was built, it was built back at a time when we were still a colony and we didn't have anything but a commitment to host the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games,” he noted.

Fennell said the National Stadium was first used in 1962 for “a Commonwealth boxing title fight match that Bunny Grant won”.

“Then [there was] the transfer of the Union Jack to the Jamaican flag and the CAC Games that followed, but I often ask the question: If we did not have that commitment, would we have a National Stadium today?”

He conceded, however, that “usually most countries or cities don't have major sports infrastructure and any types of infrastructure without a commitment to satisfy certain conditions”.

— Paul Reid


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