Sport

Digicel splashes $6m on Special Olympics Jamaica

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Thursday, January 17, 2013    

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MOBILE provider Digicel continued its love affair with Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) by splashing out a $6-million cheque to fund the country's participation in the Pyeongchang 2013 World Winter Games in the Republic of Korea.

Speaking at yesterday's press briefing at Alhambra Inn, chief executive officer Andy Thorburn said the financial commitment is an extension of the telecoms giants' "natural" and longstanding partnership with the SOJ.

"This is fantastic and we are delighted to be a part of this. Our first sponsorship was when we arrived here in 2001, so it's a long-term commitment to Special Olympics Jamaica.

"It's the right thing to do and we believe in it. It's the vision of our chairman Dennis O'Brien and it's something that all of us at Digicel are proud to be associated with.

"It's really important that companies give back and it is part of Digicel's DNA... it's natural. It's exciting times for the athletes and we are happy to be able to help. It's tough for people out there, but what we try and do is to stay loyal to the things we believe in. In these times this is where big companies have to step up and stay the course," Thorburn told the Jamaica Observer.

The Special Olympics Games allow people with intellectual disabilities to display their talents and capabilities and is aimed at helping to break down barriers that exclude them from mainstream society.

The disabilities can either be genetic or acquired and can include cases of Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and autism.

The Jamaica team, which is scheduled to leave the island next Thursday, will include 16 players for floor hockey and two entrants for ice figure skating at the January 29 to February 5 event.

The two participants for figure skating -- Nigel Davis and Tamra Mitchell -- will depart for Florida tomorrow for a one-week camp before joining the rest of the delegation in New York.

The Jamaicans took the floor hockey gold medal at the previous Winter Games in Idaho in 2009 by defeating Canada, 8-7, in the final and are seeking to break new ground in the arena of artistic dancing on ice.

Minister with Responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita Headley, praised the country's sportsmen and women and expressed delight at the prospect of Jamaica competing in figure skating at the Special Olympics.

"I'm very excited about this one and it is lovely to know that they are entering a new area in artistic skating. It is something I really and truly would love to be able to do. People across the world would wonder at how our athletes would do even though we don't have any ice here in Jamaica.

"Generally, our sportsmen and women have done us so proud and I don't think our Ministry of Tourism can pay for the kind of advertising campaign that they do for us when they enter the world market," she said.

Meanwhile, SOJ's executive director Lorna Bell said she is "extremely grateful to sponsors Digicel, Sports Development Foundation (SDF), Development Options Limited, Puma and the Law Enforcement Officers group for giving the athletes the chance to showcase their talents the world."

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