$5 billion upgrade of 'Stadium' part of efforts to drive development — sports minister

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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The potential of the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet as an economic driver has not been lost on the Government, with plans afoot to spend US$40m ($5.2b) over the next five years to upgrade the event's host venue, the National Stadium.The 14th staging of the JII meet will see a constellation of global stars gather at the National Stadium to match skills with some of Jamaica's finest athletes tomorrow.

“The promotion and hosting of national and international sporting events form part of a broader strategy to raise the profile of the city of Kingston, other urban centres and the country as a whole, as this approach is intended to facilitate and strengthen programmes of urban regeneration, rebranding and tourism development,” said Minister of Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange.

“One very important area which, as a Government, we are fully aware that needs our immediate attention is to upgrade and construct sport facilities. I know that there are some ageing infrastructure like the National Stadium and we do not want to lose our competitive advantage as we seek to promote and host more sporting events and also expand and upgrade those we now host and enjoy,” she added.

“As such, we are committed to spend over US$40 million on the upgrade of the National Stadium over the next five years. Work has already commenced in some areas and there is much more to be done. We are now developing our planning mechanisms to ensure that this public investment project gets all the necessary approvals and support,” Grange revealed.

Jamaica's former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell; Yohan Blake, the 2011 World Championship 100m champion; the emerging Andre Degrasse of Canada; Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain; 2008 Olympic 400m champion Lashawn Merritt; and 2016 pole vault bronze medallist Sam Kendricks will headline the male section.

Jamaica's double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson, along with American great Allyson Felix and Olympic triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia, will headline a star-studded women's section.

Thompson will run the 200m, which also includes the vastly improved Shericka Jackson, while Felix will try her luck in the 100m

Felix, a six-time Olympic gold medallist, will be making her fourth appearance in Jamaica, having first competed for the USA at the 2002 IAAF World Junior Championships where she finished fifth in the 200m at the age of 16.

In recent years she has used the meeting as an early-season test of speed by contesting the 100m, finishing fourth in 2013 and third in 2015.

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