Olympics are over - Rio beckons Whither Jamaica?

Franklin Johnson

Friday, August 24, 2012    

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August was a great month. Productivity and personal budgets went south but our joy was full. The "double whammy" of 50th Jubilee and Olympics in the mother country where "nuff a wi live" worked for us. Our athletes mingled with all hues and fans loved them. Rio will be different. Brazil, the most populous black nation next to Nigeria, has a strong global culture and brand. Our patois will not help us: Rio has a Portuguese one. So learn Portuguese or English to survive in Rio. There is no venue like mother country England. The native white people understand us, warts and all. They know our mischief, as the problems we create for police here we create in London, and they love us but hate our bad habits.

In the last weeks we were sated with Olympics and the monotony of sprint analyses. We are tops, they know we know, so sprinters will forgive me if I move on - "all protocols observed!" They did their job, made us proud, made money. But sprinting is the tip of our iceberg; we have much more to give. We need a JEEP for sport so we can focus minds on preparing new sports for Rio 2016. Not everyone likes or has aptitude for athletics, so let's cast our nets wider. If the state invests in new sports we can take idle hands out of the dead pool of potential criminals and grow champions. But we need a fit nation.

Fitness nation: We are a physical people, but this does not mean we are fit. Our growing obesity is alarming - overeating and under-exercising! As computers and video games penetrate, expect kids to get less physical, more virtual and obese. Many waddle like ducks, can't do cartwheels, have no balance, poise and symmetry, don't know the capacities of their bodies and can't even climb a tree. Here is some top-secret information. In the last months, despite distractions, some key work was done and decisions made. At age 50 a nation must know itself.

We love sport. We do it well. It brings us personal joy and global fame. So no more fooling around, we must embed it in the nation so its multi-hued florescence is in every parish. How? Fitness is the foundation of sport and we are on the cusp of a quantum gain in our nation's fitness. The Ministry of Education is gestating a multi-year project to escalate fitness, PE and sport in schools, embed family fitness and nutrition from an early age to give us fit bodies: mens sana in corpore sano. Children will know their bodies, eat properly, perform age-related exercises and have a fitness foundation for any sport; they will discover their aptitudes and be linked into regional, national sports groups. GC Foster College will be upgraded to world-class state and complement this project. More anon. Fit people mean healthy workers, lower health-care costs, long life and many with the potential to take on old and new sports and take local and international jobs in sport.

We can use Rio 2016 to tackle new sports and jobs. We can move a static medal haul to a quantum haul by tapping people of different sporting preferences and aptitudes. Can we move outside our comfort zone, show mastery in sports which last for more than 10, 20 or 40 seconds and tap into our toughness, strategy and endurance? We like explosive speed of brief duration, but can give pleasure in hours of grit and guts and we have material even for "Iron Man". I am not complaining about sprinting, but we have more to offer. Track is good to us and we moved the markers to the stratosphere. But there are more medals to garner and more sport millionaires to be made. The state must be proactive and engage us for Rio. We are jobless, have time to burn and may do bad things, so recruit us into fitness battalions in communities. If we break through in an event, success grows. We need "talent scouts, resources, nutrition and we will train". A JEEP for sport may be our ticket to Rio. If, after trials, a person makes the cut, he or she should be put into an elite SPORT JEEP, given a stipend and train as a job. Business must get involved too. The British did it, so can we! What sports should we tackle?

New sports: We need to impact youth, jobs and medal haul. We need new sports to give kids with talents and aptitudes other than athletics, jobs and a shot at glory. Let's go for low-hanging fruit as race walking; events with one to four people; cherry-pick by talent spotting and trials for sports with low-entry level in kit and facilities. We have four years. The British have committed £1 billion to prepare for Rio, and Portia should pledge $1 billion for sport up to 2016. It will repay us tenfold!

Water sports: We are surrounded by water and must use the water to raise our game, re-skill, create jobs and gear for competition. We must do kayaking and rowing - one to four-person teams. We have fishermen, rowing machines in gyms, so use a mobile test machine and shortlist those with lung capacity and stroke power. Get talent spotters out to schools and beaches. If it's slavery why you can't swim, then emancipate yourself and swim. Portia must ask the gaming fraternity or a family to erect an open air velodrome at the old Town Moor site. I would like to see my friend's legacy in cycling "Ian McConnell Memorial Velodrome". Parking may justify a site in St Catherine, but street security round Heroes Park will do for now. We love the speed and tactics of the Kirin, cat and mouse, Madison and sprints. We can create champions by 2016. Bookmakers in London offered Bolt at odds of 5 to 7, Blake 4 to 7 and Asafa at 13:1. If you had put £100 on Asafa to pull up you would have made millions, given the odds. Our bookies must pay for a velodrome, make money so we get good cycling facilities to train. A "Jamaica Criterium" would bring in foreign talent. Add a "Tour de la Jamaique" using the toll road network, and we could get 300,000 competitors and visitors for cycling each year. We love Motocross, and a BMX cycle course in St Mary or St Thomas is ideal - the British woman champ has local roots. We revel in events with short bursts of high energy - do it and we will get more tourist attractions to boot!

The yacht club should get a mandate for sailing, rowing, canoeing, sprint and slalom; the rifle club a renewed mandate for shooting and archery - all boys shoot bows and arrows: the volleyball association must do beach volleyball as we have talent and sand. I volunteer to recruit fit female bodies. Boxing must return to schools; it entails sportsmanship and manly discipline. The bodybuilding and fitness association can produce the usual weightlifters, Graeco Roman and freestyle wrestlers and Pommel Horse gymnasts. If we fund and empower these clubs via JEEP sport, they can give us men and women champions by 2016. We cannot all be sprinters, but we all have talent. We avoid stressful endurance sports which take an hour and more of sustained performance. With the greatest of respect, a sprinter is not the equal of a multi-event deca- , hepta- or triathlon athlete. The sheer guts, gravitas and endurance are real pain. Still, we have the talent to perform in all the endurance events - go for it!

The Jamaica Olympic Association must give us access to international coaches and technical assistance. At Rio the world could see us in a new light if we get the $1b, create JEEP sport, permanent jobs, sport tourism and stun the world with our versatility founded on the new "fit school" policy. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.





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