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On the heels of our athletes

Betty Ann Blaine
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dear Reader,

Spectacular! Incredible! Stupendous! Awesome! It is easy to run out of adjectives to adequately describe Jamaica's performance at the just concluded Olympic Games in London- Wow! Wow! Wow!

I must admit that I can't quite describe my own emotions as I glued myself to the television screen over the last two weeks. I woke up every morning with an indescribably exciting feeling of anticipation, watched the clock continuously for the appointed times of the day when our athletes would be competing, and relished repeat after repeat coverage of each event, ingesting each one as if it were the first time I was seeing it. Somehow our national anthem sounded much nicer from abroad. What a treat!

And not to mention the actual live races – the nail-biting, heart-thumping moments at the starts and during the sprints – praying for no errors and screaming as our athletes flew around the track and for our lone entrant in swimming, Alia Atkinson, to gain a medal. Even the quieter moments watching our equestrian contender, Samantha Albert, had me riveted to the television screen.

The performance of our sprinters defied description. From the sizzling 100 metres for women in which Shelly- Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown copped gold and bronze respectively, to the breathtaking 100 metres won by Bolt and Blake. Then there were the high points: the 1-2-3 sweep of gold, silver, bronze in the men's 200 metres, and the icing on the cake – the 4x100- metre relay for men. Wow!

There are no words to fully express my heartfelt congratulations to team Jamaica. I wish to say to every one of our athletes, “You did our country proud. You were superb and dignified ambassadors, and the skills you displayed in your area of specialty, have left their mark on world sporting history, and an indelible mark on Jamaica's 50th year of Independence. Thank you.”

As we shouted and screamed in excitement here at home, the world was taking note – people everywhere enamoured by feats of the Jamaicans. In the article, “How Jamaica conquered the world”, in the prestigious British newspaper, The Observer, Tom Horan writes, “A few months ago the disc jockey and radio broadcaster David Rodigan was awarded an MBE to mark his 40 years as an ambassador and proselytiser for reggae. Ram Jam, as he is affectionately known, tells his story of his trip to the palace. After the investiture he was approached by Prince Charles.

“You really love this music, don't you,” said the Prince of Wales.

“I certainly do, Sir”, he replied.

“So do I,” said Charles. “I love Jamaica.”

Horan continues, “It is incongruous to think that the heir to the throne may own a complete set of Black Uhuru albums, but his revelation should not come as a surprise. From the shack to the stately home, Jamaica inspires extraordinary affection.”

The writer adds, “On the surface it is baffling: the tiny island with the mighty reach. Look at other countries of a similar physical size: Qatar, Gambia, and the Lebanon. And those with a similar population: Mongolia, Armenia, Kuwait. Why have these nations not produced a culture that transformed the way the entire world makes and listens to music? Why do their athletes not leave those of superpowers such as Russia, China and the USA trailing in their wake? Why are their dialects not the lingua franca of an entire generation of young people? And why, at the bleaker end of the spectrum of notoriety, have their criminals not become among the most feared and infamous in the world?” I suspect that people all over the world are asking the same questions that Horan is asking.

So where do we go from here? How do we take off on the heels of our athletes? It seems to me that the first thing that we must acknowledge and honour is the abundant, God-given talent that is reposed in the people of Jamaica. The country is pregnant with potential and possibilities, and our youth are talented beyond description.

Second, we must now commit to providing tangible support for current and aspiring athletes – all of us. This is a role for families, communities, corporations and the state. Each of us in our own individual way can contribute, and the most convenient and accessible vehicle is through the schools, including, and especially, our basic and primary schools.

Third, and most important, let us agree that it is now time to tear down the destructive walls of tribalism and divisiveness, and build bridges of cooperation and collaboration. Our athletes have run the race and passed on the baton. Let's take to their heels and keep running. We can do it, Jamaica!

With love,


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