Journey from Bolt-fest to Barcelona


Monday, August 28, 2017

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I warmed to the sight of Jamaica's beautiful mountain as our flight from London made its approach to Norman Manley airport recently. I said a special prayer of thanksgiving as we had seen the evil face of terrorism just three days before.

We were visiting Barcelona — home of my husband's beloved Barça football club — after the IAAF World Games in London and so that sunny Thursday, August 17 we visited their headquarters at Joan Camper. At the end of the tour I commented on the happy buzz of Las Ramblas from our visit the day before and suggested that we return there to eat. “No, too crowded,” said Hubie — a response that probably saved our lives.

Just a couple of hours later we heard loud sirens and saw ambulances and police cars whizzing past us. “Ataque terrorista!” said an agitated souvenir vendor with her cellphone to her ear. A few streets away from us, a terrorist had driven a van, zigzagging acrosss the Las Ramblas median, and killed 13 people, including a small child, and injuring over 100.

The city quickly shut down – there was no metro and taxis were not stopping to pick up anyone as the attackers were still at large. We walked for two hours, trying to find transportation, slipping behind trees and columns whenever we saw a van or truck approaching, knowing that these attacks sometimes happen in clusters. We found out later that it was indeed the cynical plan of crazed terrorists who had been preparing multiple gas cylinders at a house the previous night. The plan backfired as there was an explosion that destroyed the house and killed two people, including the vile Imam who had radicalised the youth in a small town called Ripoll, 85 miles away from Barcelona, and formed a terrorist cell.

As we watched the reports of death and injury at Las Ramblas we mourned the innocent victims. We joined with the citizens and visitors who refused to cower and decided to continue our touring the next day. We joined the line to visit the exquisite Sagrada Familia Basilica and prayed the rosary.

On our return to Jamaica, we visited the Embassy of Spain to sign the condolence book and spoke with the gracious Ambassador Josep Maria Bosch Bessa, who is himself a native of Barcelona. We shared with him our experiences, noting that despite the tragedy, his city continued to radiate courage, peace and warmth. May we work to rekindle this loving humanity that is at the centre of every human being so that terrorism will find no harbour in any heart.


Our children's safety

As we caught up with the local news it was clear that we have very serious challenges to our efforts to achieve Vision 2030. The better off among us may be able to lock themselves away from the terror in our inner cities, but that desperation we felt as we tried to find our way back to our hotel is felt every day by the decent fellow Jamaicans in our high-risk areas throughout the country. It is dreadful that 35 children have been murdered since the beginning of the year, including the bright Mickolle Moulton of Meadowbrook High, who did not live to find out that she had attained a total of 10 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and that she was a candidate for head girl at her school.

Before it gets any worse, let us acknowledge that we are just three million in a small country that is highly fixable. If every single politician commits to put country before party, Jamaica would be transformed tomorrow. If they used even half the energy they expend on campaigning, we would have a safer Jamaica. If our church leaders would activate an islandwide plan to do as Jesus did, engage the poor and the lost, what a country we could build. The same goes for leaders in other spheres of national life where corruption is virtually a given and ego-tripping gets more play than productivity. If crimes are being committed by a minority, that is a damning judgement on the majority.


Bolt-powered Brand Jamaica

We don't seem to appreciate the Bolt-powered Brand Jamaica and its potential to help those who are desperately seeking employment and a better way of life. Recent news of the plan to open 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records locations is marked for success.

Jamaicans must know that our Usain St Leo Bolt had much to do with those packed stands at the London Stadium in Stratford. On entering the stadium, there were only two flags being hawked: British and Jamaican. Moreover, there were Usain Bolt scarves selling like hot bread and Bolt billboards everywhere.

There were countless queries about where we bought our Jamaica-branded jackets and we had stocked up with souvenirs so that anyone who said anything kind to us about Jamaica we would give them a token of our appreciation. Luckily we had many, because the shouts of “Jamaica! Bolt!” were numerous.

Hubie and I were at the 2012 Beijing Olympics when Usain Bolt emerged as a star of the track. Countless folks from various countries asked to take photos with us and our flag. Last year we journeyed to Rio and Bolt rewarded us with his superlative triple-treble – there we were outside the Rio Stadium, singing One Love with Daddy Bolt.

Please know that the world's love for our Usain has not diminished. Indeed, the 100-metre bronze and that heartbreaking injury in the 4x100 metre event created even more empathy for our legend because of his dignified response. He congratulated Justin Gatlin with grace, and he refused a wheelchair after the relay mishap, so he could walk across the finish line with his teammates.

The farewell tribute to Bolt and his gestures of gratitude on his final circuit around the London Stadium were met with thunderous applause and tears. He is loved, not only for his phenomenal world records, but also for his warm personality, nurtured by his loving upbringing. Mr and Mrs Bolt are models of parenting, and his mentor Norman Peart and coach Glen Mills are positive role models for our star.

There are so many promising Jamaican youngsters just waiting for us to move the clouds out of their lives so they can shine like Bolt. We must come together and give them that chance.




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