Beijing, China, 31 August 2018 – The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has described the sports cooperation agreement which she signed in the Chinese capital today (Friday) as "historic and extremely beneficial".
Minister Grange and the General Manager of China Sport International Company (the state-owned sports cooperation agency) Mr Lu Guoguang officially signed the agreement which will see more than 400 Jamaican athletes travelling to China for training over the next three years.
Minister Grange said it was the first time that so many Jamaican athletes would benefit directly from a bilateral sports cooperation agreement.
"Our athletes have natural abilities but need assistance and the Government of Jamaica can only do so much, and so we sincerely thank you for the current project and we believe that the benefits are of tremendous value to our athletes," said the Minister.
Although the signing of the document took place only today, implementation of the programme began in January of this year when a contingent of Chinese coaches and administrators arrived in Jamaica to assess certain national teams, collaborate with local coaches and administrators, and prepare for the first batch of 138 Jamaican athletes and coaches to arrive in China.
The first batch — representing seven disciplines: Synchronised Swimming, Gymnastics, Swimming, Badminton, Women's Volleyball, Women's Football and Women's Basketball — is currently completing 60 days of intense training at specialised facilities across China.
Mr Lu (speaking through an interpreter) said the Jamaican athletes made tremendous strides during training:
"In the two months we have made great improvement. The first (main) improvement is the record of your athletes and in the two months together, the athletes from Jamaica and China live, eat and train together and have built a great relationship between each other."
Ahead of signing the agreement in Beijing, Minister Grange travelled to some of the training centres in the cities of the Changsha and Kunming to observe the facilities, receive progress reports on the athletes from their Jamaican coaches and Chinese trainers, and to hear from the athletes their impression of the programme. They all reported that the first year of the programme has been a success.
Minister Grange said:
"I'm happy to see first hand the vast improvement in the skill level of our athletes and to tour the facilities. Our athletes have now been exposed to world class training facilities and to world class coaching and we will make sure that your investment is not wasted. We want to ensure that the infrastructure is in place for them to do well when they return to Jamaica and so we want to look at the development of our national stadium, for example."
Under the agreement, the Chinese government will also donate equipment to the seven sporting disciplines. The equipment is to arrive in Jamaica this year.
Next year (and the following year) — as happened this year — Chinese coaches will come to Jamaica to work with their Jamaican counterparts and assess national players ahead of another two month high level training programme in China.
Mr Lu wants to intensify the programme. "Hopefully, we will make much greater improvement in the performance of the athletes next year," he said.
Minister Grange's aim is that both countries will be able to begin to see the benefits of this collaboration through improved performances of Jamaican teams in the seven disciplines at the Pan American Games next year and at the Olympics in 2020.
However, the Minister's aim is for longer term collaboration in which Jamaica will also assist Chinese athletes.
"Our relationship will be one of mutual benefit; we will assist in training your athletes to be fast runners and you will help us to make our athletes in the various other disciplines better at their sport,"
said Minister Grange.