Columns

Jamaica 50 and the London games: Affairs to remember

Clare Forrester

Wednesday, July 11, 2012    

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SINCE my last column I have received many commendations and approval from a variety of sources who are in agreement with my sentiments regarding the Jamaica 50 music issue. I have also been receiving copies of songs from various sources as it becomes clearer and clearer that the Jamaican music industry has not been blind to the significance of this landmark.

From all that I have seen and heard, many of our artistes have been in one way or another acknowledging our 50th anniversary, either in live performances or by studio recordings. I mentioned some of the songs in my previous column but will now add to those a few notable omissions as well as others to which I have been introduced. Mr Vegas's very commendable effort and accompanying music video Sweet Jamaica is a testament to the fact that every kind of Jamaican artiste, whether cabaret, reggae, dancehall, jazz or whatever idiom, is inspired by this historic landmark. A beautiful anthem-like song by Aisha and Cassanova, Heart of our Nation, was also sent to me by a good friend. This is a stirring piece, well worth hearing. In addition, just in the last two days, I received Ray Forbes's Rewind Jamaica which has an infectious mento beat and some very well written lyrics. Commendation to Mr Forbes for a job well done.

I must leave this issue for now, while I am sure that other songs will continue to flow into my laptop from various sources and the process will be a continuous one. However, I cannot leave before touching on a related page-one story, published under a banner headline in The Gleaner last week, that seemed more worthy of their sister paper, The Star. That story effectively pilloried the Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna, based on comments made at the paper's recent Editor's Forum comprising some youth leaders. I suspect that The Gleaner must have been short of real front-page type news stories that day. Interestingly, this same youth community had given a similar assessment of the previous minister, Olivia "Babsy" Grange, when she was in office. A reader advised me that one FM radio station call-in programme that same week revealed contrasting sentiments by various constituencies of youth on Ms Hanna's performance. The opinions given on that station were significantly mixed, with those by call-in listeners varying sharply from those by a studio audience. Hopefully, Ms Hanna has learnt much from this experience. She certainly has enough going for her to improve on her advocacy role on behalf of her national constituency, which seems to be the message of that Gleaner forum.

The main news on the tongue of virtually every Jamaican at this point is the status and condition of our Olympic team as London 2012 draws closer and closer. The worry primarily targets Usain Bolt, Jermaine Gonzales, Asafa Powell and to a lesser extent Brigitte Foster-Hylton as to whether they will be fully fit by the time they enter the starter's block for their respective heats.

Bolt clearly has a hamstring issue which may or may not have been blown out of proportion by the global media which recognise that without Bolt the market value of the entire Olympic experience falls considerably, including television viewership. This Olympics has been marketed as the Usain Bolt Olympics and anything less than Bolt at his best would be regarded as a failure. Even if Bolt wins all his events at the Olympics and fails to set a world record in either the 100 or the 200 metres, there are those in the media waiting to declare his participation a disaster. On the other hand, there are those doubters in the media, including the so-called "Bible of the sport" Track and Field (T&F) News, the top media US print medium on track and field issues, which has predicted that he will be second in the 100 metres. Significantly, even T&F news could not deny Jamaica the gold medal for this event as they predict that Bolt will be beaten by his countryman and training partner, "the Beast" Yohan Blake. However, their overall predictions appear suspect as they have designated Wallace Spearmon to run second in the 200 metres. Spearmon has the fifth fastest time of the year, comfortably behind both Blake and Bolt as well as Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles and Nickel Ashmeade of Jamaica, who failed to make the Jamaica team. With Warren Weir just a smidgen behind Spearmon on the 2012 World Leading List, this American cannot even confidently be expected to finish in the first four. To suggest that he can get to the rarefied level of Bolt, 19.19, and Blake,19.26, is laughable. While we understand that T&F News' mission remains to push America's interests, there is just no justification for such a baseless prediction. This is precisely the sort of national exuberance that risks jeopardising the credibility of a recognised media entity. This is no reflection on Wallace Spearmon's character as we have no doubt that he is a "gentleman and a scholar". He is also a very good friend of Bolt and popular with other Jamaican fans. He is just not in that company.

Maybe T&F News' lofty expectations of Spearmon have been fuelled by pessimism about Bolt's form in some Jamaican circles. In fact, I was amazed to see where one of TVJ's prime time newscasts early last week sought viewers' response to the question: "Do you think that Bolt will come back in time for the Olympics?" This came after the Jamaican legend had clocked 9.98 in the 100 metres and 19.89 in the 200 metres. So my response to that question was, "Come back from where?"

It is my belief that the injury to Asafa Powell is more worrisome. Asafa fought valiantly in qualifying for the 100 metres Olympic team but had to be aided off the track and could be seen to be wincing in the process. Powell's management team has a history of downplaying his injuries until literally the last minute when the full extent is finally revealed, too late for a replacement to be properly prepared. We hope and pray that he will be 100 per cent fit come the games. We recognise that it is not beyond Asafa's capacity to produce an outstanding result.

The other heart-stopper, in terms of local fans, was by Jermaine Gonzales who did not finish his event during the Golden League meet last Thursday. While the report on his action explained that this was a precautionary measure, it is still worrying to have this sort of thing happening less than three weeks before the Olympic Games begin. Even if Gonzales can return to full health, the time now seems prohibitively short for him to achieve adequate form, certainly not in the individual event. Without his best form, Gonzales could easily miss out on the 400 metres final as there are several runners producing outstanding results. Others, such as Kirani James of Grenada, are capable of decimating the field. James has unquestionable pedigree and although his times so far this year have not been good - most likely due to other distractions - he can still be realistically expected to medal.

Oral Tracy, that "no holds barred" TVJ comedian/commentator, apologised to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce last week for criticising her and our other women stars as under-producing. However, should we take this to mean that he still holds that assessment of our other women stars like Sherone Simpson, Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Melaine Walker, to name a few, all of whom currently appear on top of their game?

Readers may recall that I previously mentioned that I plan being at the Olympics in London, accredited to represent the JIS and so will be submitting stories to be posted primarily on their webpage. A pre-Olympics report by me has already been posted at this site: http://www.jis.gov.jm/ja50/v2/reviews/. However, I will also be writing colour articles for the Jamaica Observer and the new online webpage Caribbean Initiative (CI), using my good contacts inside the athletics fraternity. I will be reporting in particular on the extent of the media hype around Bolt, the other Jamaican superstar athletes, the Jamaica team in general and Jamaica's celebrations that side of the globe surrounding our 50th anniversary celebrations. In the past, I have been bemused by the number of media entities and people who have chosen to interview me as a journalist at these events, based mainly on the fact that I am Jamaican. I will certainly be looking at how that phenomenon continues or increases in London. There is no question that those sentiments continue globally leading into the Games of the XXX Olympiad and that Jamaica is big news.

antoye@gmail.com

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