The disappointment of having to cancel the 2021 edition of the Gibson McCook Relays (GMR2021) is still fresh in our minds. The 2021 cancellation was only the 5th in the history of these Relays, the previous ones being 1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002. But this disappointment pales in comparison to the disruption and grief brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. No doubt, every one of us knows somebody who has succumbed to COVID and so we are grateful to be here.
We are delighted to be the first meet organizers to stage a track and field event with spectators since the pandemic appeared on our shores in March 2020. We recognize that as we embark on COVID-19 sports recovery action plan, it is critical that we are successful and provide the experience that will inform subsequent events.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to the 45th renewal of the Gibson McCook Relays since its inaugural staging in 1973. There is no doubt that we are operating in novel circumstances. Perhaps the most obvious is our reduced numbers and the shorter duration of the Meet but less visible but absolutely crucial are the dearth of sponsorship and the onerous protocols in place to reduce transmission of the corona virus. In addition, we have had to forego our official launch and draw for events as well as the Howard Aris Memorial Lecture (Technical Corner).
We will focus on the positive and wish to thank the government for its resolve to embark on the sport recovery programme. We are grateful to PUMA our presenting sponsor, major sponsors: Digicel, WISYNCO (Powerade, WATA and Coca-Cola), NACAC, and PA Benjamin. We warmly welcome our new broadcast partner PBCJ, thank them sincerely and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership. We thank our individual race sponsors: Cheerios by Nestle; Child’s Play; CIBC First Caribbean; COK Sodality; Dairy Industries; First Heritage Credit Union; Grace Foods; GK – Crest & Oral-B; Guardian Life; Jamaica Biscuit Company; Joan Duncan Foundation; JTA Cooperative Credit Union; Milo by Nestle; Nesquick by Nestle; Nupak by Mussons; Rainbow Awnings; Sagicor Group; Semola Breakfast Cereal by Mussons; Sherwin Williams and Western Union who have remained faithful despite the fallout.
We want to say a special thanks to you the fans of the sport and this event in particular and we continue to strive to make it worth your while.
We wish to thank the government agencies that have provided the services which have mitigated the impact of the pandemic and who have worked with us to create a safe environment to resume this event.
We also thank our national organization, the JAAA, for its guidance and support.
As we look ahead, there are many new tools which have emerged or have become more widespread in their use, none more obvious than the new communication platforms since the pandemic. We must find ways to take advantage of these products to improve the marketability and financial returns on events like these Relays.
I thank the organizing team, the GMROC as we call ourselves, for the sacrifice and diligence in staying positive throughout the disappointments, uncertainties, and frustrations, not losing sight of the main objective.
Finally, if you had not noticed, next year 2023 will be the 50th anniversary of the first staging of these Relays. We hope to make it special and with your assistance, no doubt we will.
Please enjoy the event and again we thank you for your support.