Cashing in on the electrifying Olympic wins of Caribbean athletes and teams could represent golden opportunities for several islands whose superstars took home medals, delivering a royal show in London.

Beyond the publicity surrounding the winners came the visibility that each brought not only to his island country but also to the region as a whole.

While Jamaicans basked in the euphoria of their celebrated athletes, tourism officials were busy showcasing and marketing the country's business and tourism industry to leverage the coverage and the momentum generated by the record medal tally for the country.

A delegation of ministers attended the Olympics, working behind the scenes to promote the destination and secure tangible benefits in the wake of the island-nation's Olympic feats.

Kirani James, GrenadaThey met with more than 300 agents and operators, confirmed new air seats from the U.K. for 2013 and spoke with potential investors and future visitors.

Jamaican Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill said an online ad campaign featuring sprinter Usain Bolt soon would launch in the U.K. market.

In addition, the Olympic medals prompted invitations to more than 1,500 agents from the U.S. and the U.K. who began visiting the island in five rotations that began Sept. 6.

The government, through the Foundation for the Development of Sport, plans to sponsor a number of international sporting events as well and to push for the construction of more world-class sports facilities, athletic training and a stadium complex.

Trinidad and Tobago native Keshorn Walcott's gold medal for the javelin throw earned him accolades and prizes back home, including a new home and a Caribbean Airlines plane and a lighthouse named in his honor. For his country, his triumph "represents a big opportunity for us to promote sports events and sports tourism," said Juliana Boodram, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.

"It's one of the areas we've been looking at as a revenue earner and as a means of further branding the destination."

Visitor numbers are down this year due to the economic downturn, "but the promotion of sports tourism and the staging of events is a way for us to fill hotels," Boodram said. "When athletes come here to compete, they bring their families, and that puts heads in beds."

Trinidad held a global cricket match on Sept. 6 in Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain that was carried on ESPN.

"We're following this with a golf event, and then perhaps we will try a sailing competition," she said.

Trinidad and Tobago's sports tourism budget in 2011 was "not very big, but we're putting in for a much bigger slice this time around," Boodram said. "The budget has to be passed by Parliament, but many officials now see tourism, including sports tourism, as a way of moving away from dependency on oil and gas as main revenue streams."

Kirani James' gold medal sprint in the 400-meter run stunned and ignited the island of Grenada.

Edwin Frank, spokesman for the Grenada Board of Tourism, said, "Grenada has been keenly aware of the rising popularity of sports tourism. James' achievement only enhances the efforts to articulate our potential as a sports tourism destination."

Frank added: "A strong level of collaboration among officials in various ministries" is needed to achieve that goal. "While specifics need to be worked out, it's obvious that this historic event will not be allowed to simply disappear."

James returned home to a hero's welcome and a shower of rewards that included $270,000 in cash, real estate and jewelry.

Grenada's athletic stadium, damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, will be renamed Kirani James Stadium when it is rebuilt, and the government plans to issue commemorative stamps in his honor.

In the Bahamas, sports tourism already was a burgeoning revenue earner before its men's 4-x-400 meter relay team snapped the U.S. winning streak and brought home the gold.

Sports tourism events, used as a vehicle to attract participants and their families and friends, are expected to generate better than 20,000 room nights and more than $13 million in tourism expenditures in fiscal year 2012-2013, officials said.

Dozens of events crowd the sports calendar year-round in the Bahamas, including the Miami/Nassau Ocean Yacht Race and a women's basketball tournament on Grand Bahama, both in November; a celebrity tennis competition in December; a marathon in Nassau in January; and a cycling race on Eleuthera in April.

The International Association of Athletic Federations' first World Relays track-and-field championship will take place in Nassau/Paradise Island in 2014 and is expected to generate more than $5 million in visitor spending.

"We will continue to emphasize growth through sports tourism events as a vital part of our overall tourism strategy," said Obie Wilchcombe, minister of tourism. "We have great venues and the climate for year-round sports."

For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.


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