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Jamaica House officially open

CUTTING THE RIBBON: (from left) Jason Hall, deputy director JTB, Anthony Hylton, Natalie Neita-Headley, UK Foreign Minister Henry Billingham, Dr.Wykeham McNeill, High Commissioner AlounAssamba and Torrence Lewis, JTB UK executive

JAMAICA HOUSE was officially opened at the 02 Arena in North Greenwich, south east London, just three miles from the Olympic Stadium on August 3 and has set the stage for expected Jamaican celebrations around the games as well as investment and retail opportunities for Jamaica.

Large screen televisions, Red Stripe Beers in their original pint size bottles stacked in the vintage bar, J Wray and Nephew products, an assortment of cooked food in the outdoor restaurant and a throng of Jamaicans and their friends settled in for days of cheering and celebration that coincides with Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence on August 6.

From early afternoon the Jamaica House Terrace in Proud2 was adorned with palm treesand colours of the Jamaican flag which set the stage for the expected dominance by the Jamaican athletes in the Olympic stadium and shown on huge television screens. The national media and international media were also there to capture the mood as patrons rocked to a barrage to classical Jamaican music going back to theearly days.

Inside ‘JamaicaHouse’ the official opening was completed with the ribbon-cutting formalities in a joint effort by the Ministriesof Tourism and Entertainment; Industry, Investment and Commerce; Sports andCulture.

Participating in the ceremony were Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Mr Anthony Hylton; Mr Henry Billingham, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Minister for Africa, the UN and Overseas Territories; Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr.Wykeham McNeill; Minister without portfolio with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley and Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK Ms AlounAssamba.

Mr Anthony Hylton who also earlier toured ‘Jamaica inthe Square’ in Birmingham, another prominent venuefor Jamaicans to celebrate Independence, told The Voice: “We expect that there will be some lasting legacies from the Olympics and the various initiatives that we have taken in London and Birmingham.

"These events will lift the profile ofJamaica and Jamaican goods and products. The Jamaican Diaspora has supported the events extremely well and we are motivated to continue to expand.”

LAUGHTER: Happy fans with HC Assamba at Jamaica House

Commenting on the Jamaica House he said: “As you can seethe House is a fantastic response from theJamaican public and the British government and we believe that in the days to come the investment and retail opportunities will be tremendous.

"Having also visited the Olympic Village earlier in the day Minister Hylton said: “Our athletes are in good spirit, they are readyand prepared to do their best for Jamaica and themselves, I have everyexpectation that our medal haul will be quite satisfactory to Jamaica and all of us.”

UK’s Foreign Office Minister Henry Billingham said. “There are very strong ties between our two nations and we might even say Jamaica is the second home team at this Olympics.”

He congratulated Jamaica on its 50th Independence while emphasising that in the current challenging economic times the private sector must be the engine of growth for both economies and hoped that the current activities provide a unique opportunity to sell Jamaica to the world. “We want our bilateral trade to double between UK and Jamaica over the next four years,” he said.

President of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) Mike Fennell had praise for the Diaspora community. “My friends you are supporting a winning team, you are supporting our athletes who will do us proud again and keep on giving them your support so that they can continue to feel appreciated for what they are doing for their country and themselves.”

The weekend’s informal parties continue in Hyde Park, Stratford, Brixton and other communities across the UK including Huddersfield, Manchester and Wales.

When the drama of the Olympic Games have passed there will be little recuperation for the Jamaican fans as they plan to fill the Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal football club, for an Independence gala dinner on August 16 with special guest, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.

The dinner will honour two of the nation's greatest sprinters: MerleneOttey, who won an incredible nine track medals at five Olympic games from 1980 to 2000; and Don Quarrie, who won four Olympic medals from 1976 to1984 and today serves as the technical manager for the Jamaican track and field team.

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