The Bolt farewell: Let's take a leaf out of Ostrava's book

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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One could easily be forgiven for thinking that the athletics-loving Czech city of Ostrava was trying, last Wednesday, to tempt Jamaica's Mr Usain Bolt into seeking citizenship in much the same way as Slovenia with Merlene Ottey, one of Jamaica and the world's most decorated female athletes.

Ostrava pulled out all the stops and spared no expense in staging one of the most memorable farewell ceremonies ever seen to honour Mr Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time. That was done at the end of the Ostrava meet at which he was appearing and winning his race for the ninth time.

We are careful in making comparisons, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge that the Jamaica farewell to Mr Bolt at this year's Racers Grand Prix paled severely in the face of Ostrava. If one was just arriving from Mars one could think that the athlete was a son of the Czech city instead of a man born of Jamaican soil.

“We gave priority in our preparation and the whole set-up of the meet to Usain,” Alfons Juck, the organiser was not ashamed to tell AFP.

It was a moving sight to see Mr Bolt standing at attention, hand across his breast, alone on the track of the Mestksy Stadium, which was cleared of everyone for the singing of the Jamaican National Anthem by one of that country's most popular personalities.

A large section of the stadium was converted into a sea of yellow and green and the Jamaican flag was held aloft in several areas by beautiful Czech women who waved it appropriately. Children, their faces painted in the Jamaican and Czech flags on opposite cheeks, strained to get an autograph from the great man.

No one in the capacity crowd moved a muscle after the track and field events were completed, and it would appear that they had all come out to see the Jamaican in his last appearance. It was also obvious that money was not an issue from the choice of the convertible classic car in which he rode around the stadium to the fireworks which followed the singing of the anthem, both verses to boot.

For sure, the words ahead of the Jamaican event were beautiful: “The greatest sprinter of all time; a true Jamaican patriot will take his final stride and the Racers Grand Prix provides the opportunity for a nation to show its love and appreciation for 15 years of international glory, pride and joy given to us by the indomitable Lightning Bolt,” said coach and Racers boss Mr Glen Mills.

But, in Mr Bolt's homeland, there was little, if anything, of the pomp and pageantry in Ostrava that spoke volumes more than words about their love for the Jamaican track legend. No one who saw it will forget the near scuffle between Mr Bolt and photographers who were blocking him from greeting his fans in the Jamaican stadium.

We do have a cultural practice of taking our people, no matter how great, for granted. We doubt that anyone will argue that it was a lack of resources, unless one is willing to concede that Ostrava was more ready to spend lavishly on Mr Bolt than Jamaicans were.




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