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Ms Grange, unwisely, put the horse before the statue cart

Thursday, February 13, 2020

We don't suppose that Sport Minister Olivia Grange will lose any points for the selection of the last four athletes to be immortalised in statues — Olympians Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell Brown, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Asafa Powell.

Which is not the same as saying that everybody is going to agree with the choice of those athletes to be so honoured. We would not be Jamaicans if we did not find some reason to disagree about which athletes are undeserving of it.

Still, we were aghast to hear from Minister Grange that going forward a committee would be set up and criteria established to determine who should get statues. Aghast because we had assumed and why should we that such would have been in place from the beginning.

In Ms Grange's own words: “Going forward, we hope to do more statues. We hope to develop a criteria and I will put a team together. And out of consultations and discussions we will identify other personalities for whom we will commission statues. But I am happy about what we have done so far.”

We are happy that Ms Grange is happy, but what the minister is telling us is that the initial four were selected on the basis of someone's subjective views and on the assumption that everybody else would agree with those decisions.

Ms Grange explained at the statue unveiling for former world record holder Mr Asafa Powell at Independence Park, Kingston that his statue was the last of the Ministry of Sport's Jamaica 55 legacy projects which recognise the accomplishments of Jamaica's athletes.

The decision to honour our athletes is not an issue that too many Jamaicans will agonise about in the adverse. Indeed, our great sportsmen and women have brought such untold joy and pride to our country that honouring them goes without saying.

Where the problem arises is in deciding which athletes, and which other individuals who represent Jamaica at high levels, should be honoured, and in what form. Ms Grange is clearly not ignorant of this issue.

Again, in her own words: “There are a number of other athletes who are deserving, but they all couldn't be done at the same time, and this is why I'm saying that there will be more statues. There will be more things done in honour and in tribute to the achievements of our athletes and our artistic people.”

We rest our case.

It would appear that Ms Grange knew what she was doing in abrogating onto herself and her small circle the right to chose the athletes to be honoured; and she boldly told the unveiling ceremony that she “accepted the potential criticism concerning the frequency of statues made, and which athletes should be next in line to be similarly commemorated”.

We can easily name Messrs Courtney Walsh, Michael Holding, Chris Gayle, Michael McCallum, Ms Stafanie Taylor, and so on. The list is endless.

How beautiful it would be if Jamaicans were asked to participate in the selection process by sending in their nominees, saying why they should be chosen, with the most popular ones being given the nod.

Our athletes are among the most enduring symbols of our pride and unity. Nothing must be done to injure that.