By Dwayne Richards:
With the retirement of Jamaica’s most recognisable sporting hero of all time, Usain Bolt, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) is readying itself to build on the legacy left by the great man, but not just in the area of track and field.
The JOA is on a mission to grow sports in the country in general, in an effort to have at least 10 sporting disciplines represented at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, in 2020.
This forms part of the mandate set by the new board installed last June, and according to CEO of the JOA, Ryan Foster, things are in place for that to happen.
“With the new thrust of the JOA and the new mandate of the board to have 10 sports being represented in the next Olympics, which is 2020, I believe what bobsleigh is doing under one of our directors, Chris Stokes, augurs well for what we are trying to achieve in expanding our reach, not just in track and field, but in all the respective sports within our member associations,” he stated.
A strategic plan is being put in place by the JOA to raise the profile and increase the ability of the member associations to prepare their athletes for local and international competitions and hence achieve Olympic status, he explained.
“We want to ensure that we create that platform within which we can support the growth and development of our members and ensure that we have a broader and a diverse representation in the respective sports, whether it be World Games, Olympic Games or CAC Games and, by extension, the Winter Olympics (now going on). So we at the JOA are very pleased to have seen that we are now moving into other areas within the Winter Olympics framework and we want to congratulate the Bobsled Federation and its athletes in such a momentous achievement.”
Foster sought to explain that the JOA is concerned with the overall development of sport in the country as their efforts go beyond just Olympic sports.
“The Commonwealth Games will have sports that are non-Olympic sports and we do have federations and associations that are members of the JOA that are non-Olympic sports, but we don’t look at sport as just Olympics only. We look at sport in general and its whole impact on national development and growth. We want to be a part of nation growth and building and we see sport, whether Olympics or otherwise, Commonwealth or otherwise, as part of that process to develop sport as a business, but also as part of the overall psyche and Jamaican landscape.”
The JOA will be taking an active role in helping the various associationS improve their asset base to enable growth so that they can become more competitive.
“I believe that with this new thrust of monetising the assets of our respective federations with a view to giving them the financial resources to grow their respective sports, not just locally but regionally and internationally, I think they go hand in hand and I think Don Wehby’s speech at the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards (in January) and the subsequent article, would have articulated the importance of corporate sponsors and government sponsorship in ensuring the growth and development of sports and their federations within the Jamaican landscape and the bigger picture.”
Foster believes that things are on the right track to making Jamaica a global force in more sporting disciplines.
“Once we create that platform and the resources around these respective sporting associations, it will only go further in the development of these sports and getting ultimately more sports, not just in the Commonwealth Games but in the CAC Games, the PAN AM Games, the Youth Olympics and, by extension, the Olympic Games.
“I think we are on the right track and I think once we go hand-in-hand with the support of the federations, the government, as well as the JOA we will be represented in the Olympics in 2020 by those 10 new sports.”
But while things are looking up, the matter of financing the dream has come into sharp focus and the man charged to spearhead the task is all too aware of that particular challenge. He will be taking a phased approach to ensuring that things happen according to the overall plan.
“It takes cash to care and one of the main hindrances of growth of our sporting associations is the resources to grow their respective sport within the country. The JOA’s primary role is providing that infrastructure to aid in that growth. By that infrastructure I don’t mean necessarily cash, but the infrastructure to help them with their strategic plan, with the acquisition of equipment, the training and development of their coaches, athletes, etc, providing that framework within which we can expand the knowledge base, expand the capacity of our coaches, our administrators and our athletes to get to that level.
“We have that infrastructure through the IOC programmes, the PASO programmes and the overall Advanced Sports Management Programmes within the JOA. Once we would have built that framework for them for training and development, then we move now into the next step which is the overall resources because we would have satisfied the strategic planning and the development aspect of it from phase one.
“Phase two is building the platform from the resource standpoint and to ensure that we have the facilities to meet the training needs of our athletes and administrators. We also need to ensure that we have the necessary financial resources to build upon phase one, which is the strategic plan that they would have articulated,” he explained.
Foster also indicated that the support for the associations would be ongoing.
“Once we create the resources that are needed for them to grow and to get to that next level, we then now provide what is called a monitoring aspect of it, so we ensure that there is sustainability and continuation of those plans that would have been articulated in phase one.”
Jamaica has participated in seven events at the Summer Olympics since 1948. These include track and field, boxing, swimming, diving, equestrian, gymnastics and cycling.