Birmingham, London bids to host Jamaican Athletes

LONDON – The City of Birmingham is making a bid to provide training camp facilities for the Jamaican and Caribbean Track and Field teams, ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Last week, the city hosted the Jamaican High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Burchell Whiteman, and showcased the city’s facilities and highlighted its strong Caribbean links.

High Commissioner Whiteman met with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Chauhdry Abdul Rashid and the Lady Mayoress; the Leader of the Birmingham City Council, Councillor Mike Whitby and Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport, and Culture, Councillor Ray Hassall, as well as representatives of the area’s large Caribbean community.

He was shown around the city’s sporting facilities, and informed about the city’s expertise in hosting world-class athletes as well as other strengths, such as its proximity to London.

The High Commissioner’s party then attended a luncheon hosted by Councillor and Mrs. Whitby, with Council members, and Caribbean community leaders representing the church, local business, sports, and journalism from Birmingham and the West Midlands.

Councillor Whitby outlined the major developments within the city, which he described as “having global reach, but with soul,” and expressed confidence that it could provide excellent training facilities for the Jamaican team, prior to the 2012 Olympics.

Mr. Whiteman commended Councillor Whitby on the development initiatives which he had spearheaded, and also complimented the Jamaican and Caribbean community leadership for the major contribution they had made to the development of Birmingham and beyond. He pointed out that there were a number of offers from other cities and councils to host the Jamaican team, and that he would faithfully convey the passion of Birmingham’s interest, given the strength of the Jamaican community there.

He also pointed out that 2012 would also mark Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence and that they could look forward to many other major events within that year.

The High Commissioner’s party also visited the University of Birmingham, which he attended as a student, and toured the Munrow Sports Centre, and the Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

The day ended with a courtesy call on the Vice-Principal of the University, Professor Michael Sheppard. The High Commissioner discussed issues affecting the admission of students from Jamaica and other Commonwealth countries and was assured by the Vice-Principal that he had taken them on board, as Birmingham wished to preserve the international character of the University.

The Midlands has the largest Caribbean population in the UK, outside of London, with an estimated 50,000 residents of Caribbean descent in Birmingham alone. Notable residents of Jamaican heritage include Chancellor of the University of Technology, Lord Bill Morris of Handsworth; actor and comedian, Lenny Henry; and poet, Benjamin Zephaniah.

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