Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have a few things in common this year. They joined with the rest of the world yesterday to participate in the London Olympics 2012 and both are celebrating 50 years of independence this year. ’s therefore no surprise that a lot of comparisons are being made between the two Caribbean nations, specifically their presence at the London games. T&T plans to showcase the country culture, businesses and art during the Games. Jamaica will also showcase its goods, but has opted to follow the adage, “bigger is better”. T&T has sent a delegation of 30 athletes to London, Jamaica’s delegation numbers 47. T&T has secured the use of the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, which can seat 235 people, as the venue for its T&T Village, while the significantly bigger Indig02 will be used for “Jamaica House.” The Indig02 auditorium can seat 2,400 people comfortably. T&T’s High Commissioner in London, Garvin Nicholas, told the T&T Guardian this country will be promoted for four and a half weeks from 10 am to 11 pm daily. Jamaica has been celebrating its anniversary and the Olympics simultaneously in London since June 11. A look online at UK newspapers shows the spotlight is securely on Usain Bolt and the Jamaican contingent.
Jamaica House has an impressive Website, devoted to the island’s Olympic activity and promotion. The website is quoted as saying: “Among the 216 nations preparing to be a part of history at the London 2012 Olympics, Jamaica has been quietly crafting a focused-promotional strategy around its eagerly-anticipated exploits on the track. “The island of 2.7 million wants to increase positive global awareness of its culture, to promote tourism and investment and trade business opportunities, and to ensure a robust supply of authentic Jamaican products and memorabilia for merchandise sales.” The Jamaican tourist board has actual targets for growth in tourism and has invested £1 million to showcase the island during the Olympic Games in London. “UK visitor numbers to Jamaica stood at around 180,000 in 2011—a five per cent decline on 2010—but the Jamaica tourism Board was targeting a six per cent year-on-year increase for the 2012/13 winter season based on increased airlift and interest stimulated by the Olympics,” the Web site states. Jamaica’s Web site is a tourism-promoting machine and does not only focus on the Olympics but details of Jamaican culture as well as the island’s 50th anniversary of their independence.
T&T’s independence Web site recently closed down due to flaws.The only Web site dedicated to T&T’s participation in the Olympics is the T&T Olympic Committee Web site, which has loads of generic information on a variety of sport but very little on T&T. So exactly why does Jamaica seem to be doing so much more than T&T? When asked to give details about T&T’s presence in London and the opportunities for promoting the country during the Olympics, Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz said everything was being handled by the High Commission in London. “I know the TDC chairman has gone to London and will be representing the Tourism Ministry, but I really don’t have a lot of details,” he said. Earlier this month, when the T&T Guardian spoke to Nicholas, a lot of details had not been finalised. The list of performers and artistes had not been chosen, they were still looking for sponsors and when Nicholas was asked to name some of the painters whose art would be exhibited, he said: “Well, we are still looking at people, you know, notable painters like...”
He then asked me to name some as they had slipped his mind. He named booths featuring local cuisine, such as bake and shark, curry, sada roti and local soups. “The Trinidad and Tobago High Commission is putting on the single largest diversity of events than any other High Commission or Embassy in London,” said Nicholas in response to comparisons being made between T&T and Jamaica. “Most certainly nothing like this has ever been undertaken by an High Commission before.” He said, unlike some other countries that have undertaken, with considerable expenditure, short entertainment events, the T&T High Commission is running a four and a half week programme with numerous different artistes from T&T and Europe. “Our programme involves, children’s workshops, theatre, film, art, cuisine, drinks and concerts with a primary focus on culture and tourism. There has been considerable interest from the Diaspora and others for this event and we are very pleased that we were able to make it happen on very limited funds.” The budget for the T&T culture fest is £600,000. “We have been able to accomplish this by begging artistes to perform for minimal compensation, begging airlines for discounted fares and waiving freight charges and essentially getting people to volunteer their services,” said Nicholas. He said tourism as a product was not yet properly understood by many stakeholders.