BIRMINGHAM, England — The success of Jamaican athletes at the London Olympic Games which starts next week is closely tied to the 50th Anniversary of Independence from Great Britain, according to team officials at the training camp here at University of Birmingham.
The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) selected 50 athletes in four sporting disciplines to represent the nation at the Olympics which represents a symbolic 'homecoming' of sorts after Jamaica first participated in the last Olympics held here in England in 1948.
Ludlow Watts, treasurer of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) and one of the managers of the team here, says unlike 64 years ago, the Jamaican athletes on this team are "known quantities" and of "high profile", so the expectations are high.
Donald Quarrie, himself a former Olympic gold medal winner and the technical leader of the track team, says the athletes' responsibilities will be on the track while the managers' job will be to ensure that the athletes are ready.
At a meeting between the members of the Jamaican media and the team managers on Sunday, Watts said the Olympic Games being in London this year "represents a lot in the sense that our first Olympics was in London in 1948 and we did well and we are going back to London in 2012".
A lot has changed in over half-a-century since Jamaica started competing at the Olympics, he said.
"We were unknown quantities then, but now we are known quantities now and given our performances over the past few years and the high profile and qualities of our athletes, we are expecting to do well," he said.
Watts, however, warned that "We are not going to speak to any medal counts; we just expect to do well as we are not the only people in the world who will be competing and we are not the only people who are praying for good results."
Given the "strong links" with England and the thousands of people with Jamaican heritage living here, Watts said the 50th Anniversary Celebrations will be significant.
"We have traditionally done well here and we expect it to be a great year," he added.
Quarrie said it came down to their ability as a management team to make certain the athletes were up to their best.
"It's a matter of how we continue to motivate this team because they are here to compete," he explained, adding that the Jamaican athletes were very aware of the significance of the milestone.
"In the back of their minds they are aware that it is our 50th Anniversary," he said of the athletes.
"But their responsibilities lie on the track... ours depends on how well we can continue to motivate them, set up timelines, deadlines and meet them so things flow well for them because in the end, the results go back to Jamaica," he said
Quarrie asserted that medals in themselves is not the entire story.
"What we want is not just medals, but the important thing is that Jamaicans know it is still a building process.
"This is our 50th Anniversary (and) we are doing great, but in another 50 years there will be so much more between now and then that it will continue our historical tradition of great performances at Olympic Games," said the 1976 200m Olympic gold medal winner.
Merlene 'Terry' Hamilton, the female manager, said the fact that there were so many Jamaicans living in the London area alone will heighten the expectation level which, she says, "are as high as ours and what we see here in our team, we just hope they can deliver and make Jamaicans happy".