Columns

Go Bolt, Blake, Shelly-Ann, VC!

MARK WIGNALL

Thursday, July 26, 2012    

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IF Singapore was celebrated for the successes of its athletes and its music, and not its collective determination, hard work, innovation and the long-term resourcefulness of its people, it would be called Jamaica.

As wildly successful as Singapore has been, I know that I would not be comfortable living there. The freedoms we have in Jamaica, to spit on the street, urinate against light poles, drive our cars like a nation of illiterates, among many other things, are sadly attractive to us. Visitors from European capitals and North America spend 10 days in Jamaica and return home in tears.

They miss us. Our country is intoxicating. For all the wrong and perversely desirable reasons.

Then again there are those of us who just want to stick around for another decade or two because we believe that there is a better Jamaica somewhere down the road.

Tomorrow the big Olympic show kicks off and the only tangible heroes among us will be there. We have seen them before, celebrated them wildly as if tomorrows had no meaning. In 2008 Usain Bolt captured the world and in doing so, he took us a little higher and certainly much faster. We were there with him because he was one of us, and we never had anything so good before to make us feel extra special, even if the pot at home was empty the next day.

In 2008 we sat glued to our TV sets as the pint-sized, bottle rocket Shelly-Ann Fraser tore up the tracks and made us love her. In doing so, we made merry with each other and felt good about ourselves. For brief moments we agreed to forget that charlatan politicians were among us.

Veronica Campbell-Brown gave us reason to cry as she did it again. It raised us a foot higher and told us that we were special, very special. Melaine Walker rounding the bend, approaching another hurdle, leading foot forward, over, in front, over again and winning. Against the rest of the much more powerful world. What a victory!

Our men in the 4x100 relay destroying all comers and amid the incessant cheering, we found the time to pause, if even briefly to ask, why are we not better in so many other areas of our life?

Every nation needs its heroes. Bob Marley gave us his music and the world lapped it up, and we claimed him as our own home-grown, rebel Rasta prince. We wore his colours and even "baldhead' called him their own.

Usain Bolt has close to three million Jamaicans on the rock rooting for him and probably just as many on the outside loving him, urging him on and praying for his repeated success. Some have even suggested that Asafa Powell has this one last time to prove something - not to us but to himself that he is better than he believes he is.

I have my concerns about Veronica because she seems so subdued of late. VC, you know that you are nationally loved and that we are at one with you. Anything negative in your space needs to take a leave of absence so that you will be able to rediscover your better self. We know you can do it, girl.

Yohan Blake is the focus of the moment, notwithstanding the brighter light of superman Bolt. Yohan "The Beast" Blake may be contemplating that it is highly unlikely that lightning will strike in the same place twice. Or, if lightning plans that same second strike, Blake aims to position himself to be right there, waiting for it to happen.

The London weather is only predictable in its unpredictability. If it becomes damp and humid on the day of the 100 metres final, it could favour the shorter Blake over the very tall Usain Bolt. First, Bolt has broken records even when his start was pedestrian. The extent to which it is unlikely that the same Bolt that existed in 2008 is present in 2012 will give Blake that needed edge, as if The Beast needed anyone to give him an edge.

The shorter man with the faster start in poor weather is likely to have that advantage as he raises his head and faces full frontal. Any moisture on the track will be to his benefit. Then again, maybe I am dreaming.

With not much going for us as a nation going forward socially and economically, we are not in a position to accept that our sporting heroes are human. We are unwilling to bear the thought of the sound of a gold medal slipping into a slot made for silver. We are not disposed to be seeing any of our Jamaican superstars running behind the arrogant Americans. No, no, no! That would put the entire nation on Prozac!

I would like to believe that our people here at home and abroad are capable of celebrating the best that our human sporting stars can attain once again - superhuman status. But if they do not, must we not still love them and celebrate them because they took the fight to the rest of the world on our behalf because, truth be told, we could not even win an "egg-and-spoon race"?

As for me, I will be giving Bolt the same chance I will give Blake to win the 100 metres. I will place my money fully on Bolt in the 200 metres although, with the London weather, I am expecting no new records.

I am expecting our men to win the 4x100 metres in fine style. Realistically, I believe that our ladies will be in medal contention for the 4x100 relay. If VC finds back her form, I am expecting at the very least, a silver medal, but the gold will be theirs to lose.

Hey, Shelly-Ann, I can see you smiling even now as your confidence grows and grows. I am expecting you to cop the gold by about a half-metre!

Many of our elected officials are corrupt, but for the month of August as the Olympics capture us, we will be signing a pact to forget about them. They have brought us only shame and we are not in any mood to dwell on that generational depression.

For now, we are loudly celebrating our athletes and wishing them all the best. We have seen them before and we know what they are capable of.

It is now left up to them.

observemark@gmail.com

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