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Screams of delight from 'Jamaica House'

J’cans in O2 Arena celebrate gold, bronze medals

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — Special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 05, 2012    

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LONDON, England — Hundreds of jubilant Jamaicans who watched the women's 100-metre final last night from the specially created 'Jamaica House' inside the O2 Arena here, screamed with delight as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell Brown won gold and bronze respectively in one of the most competitive races ever at the Olympic Games.

The noise was deafening as the runners crossed the finish line, Fraser-Pryce retaining her Olympic crown in 10.75 seconds ahead of American Carmelita Jeter, who clocked 10.78 seconds for silver, and Campbell Brown, who clocked 10.81 seconds.

Jamaica's national colours — black, green and gold — dotted the 02 Arena hours before the start of the race as Jamaicans, who came out in their numbers, created a festive atmosphere.

There was hardly standing room as the old, not so old, and even the very young came to be a part of this celebratory moment.

It was also an opportunity to socialise the Jamaican way as pulsating reggae music created the perfect ambience.

However, Jamaicans were not the only ones in attendance. Several foreigners joined in, keeping the lines at the food stations long as caterers satisfied with Jamaican cuisine.

"This is one very good gift for Jamaica's birthday, and like a special child Jamaica will get more than one gift, so look out for the celebration tomorrow again," said a beaming Donnette Barnes, whose voice was hoarse from screaming.

Her reference was to Jamaica's current celebration of its 50th year of political Independence from Britain on August 6, 1962 and the high expectation that a Jamaican will win the men's 100m final today.

"I am just so elated," said Maxine Ma'atsankofa as she draped the Jamaican flag around her.

Ma'atsankofa, who is of Jamaican parentage, said Fraser-Pryce is an inspiration to her.

"I was so disappointed that I couldn't get tickets to go see her, but I am so happy now," she beamed.

Aspiring athlete 14-year-old Jamil Amil said he was glad to have witnessed such a victory.

"I am very happy that Shelly-Ann took the gold medal," he said, adding that he is also a huge fan of Yohan Blake.

French nationals Alex Macario and Antoine Beck were among the many foreigners celebrating Jamaica's victory.

Beck said he learnt about Jamaica House via an advertisement on the Internet and decided there was no better place to be than there.

"It is such a great feeling to be here that I feel like my smile is stuck to my face," Macario said.

Ava-gail Gardiner, a Jamaican on vacation in Europe, said she couldn't miss the opportunity to attend and cheer on "our girls".

"In addition to being the Olympics and Jamaica 50, this is significant to come together in the spirit of collaboration," she said.

Gardiner said she has attended a number of other non-Jamaican events being staged during the Olympics period, however the energy is just not the same.

"Jamaicans are just more dynamic and interactive and there is just an easy vibes," she said.

Jamaica's Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill and director of tourism John Lynch, who stayed at Jamaica House to watch the finals on big screen, were satisfied with the turnout.

"Jamaica House has been full since the start; everybody is talking about it and the athletes have been doing well," Lynch said of the centre established to promote Jamaica's tourism as well as other products and services.

He added that Jamaica is even getting exposure from the Jamaican-born athletes who are running for other countries.

The tourism minister said the tables and chairs inside Jamaica House will have to be removed to facilitate an even larger turnout of patrons and members of the international media who are expected to be watching the men's 100-metre finals from the venue today.

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