Click here to print page

Will Jamaica suffer at the Tokyo Olympic Games because of Government inertia?

Observer writer

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Today, we are five months away from the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, which were postponed from last year because of the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he had got the full support of the G-7 Nations to host the Games, sending out the strongest signal yet that the Olympic Games will take place this year.

But while most countries have figured how to resume sports safely, the Jamaican Government has given the green light only to horse racing while other sports, most of which will feature at the Olympic Games, have yet to enjoy that benefit.

Since first competing at the largest global sporting event in 1948, Jamaica has become a recognisable name at the Olympic Games and is now ranked as the third-best track and field nation at the world sporting centre piece.

Usain Bolt is no doubt the greatest track and field athlete to have participated at the Olympic Games and his legacy will live on forever. His performances between 2008 and 2016, along with many other athletes such as Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Elaine Thompson-Herah, made Jamaica the most powerful track and field nation for three consecutive Games.

Now as the first “post-Usain Bolt Olympic Games” approaches, Jamaica is set to be left behind because of a lack of preparation opportunities for most of the locally based athletes.

Despite a template being set last summer for the safe staging of track and field meets and yet another late last year, the nation's most successful sport has failed to restart in 2021, leaving a disenfranchised set of athletes depressed and confused, as the Government is yet to take the decision that will benefit not just athletes, but the nation as a whole.

Come what may, the Games will be held this year. But how prepared will our athletes be to go up against the best of the rest of the world? For a number of athletes, this will be their last hoorah.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Yohan Blake will certainly be participating in their final Games and it could be the same for Asafa Powell, as well. These magnificent servants of Jamaica deserve a fair shot at giving their best effort at the Summer Games and with the challenges associated with flying restrictions, deserve the opportunity to compete locally to enhance their preparations.

Jamaica-based Thompson-Herah is the defending double sprint champion over 100m and 200m, and certainly she deserves every opportunity for a real chance to defend her titles. Fortunately for the other Jamaican individual gold medal winner from the Rio 2016 Olympics, Omar McLeod, who is able to prepare for his title defence because he is based in the United States and as such can compete week in, week out, if he so desires.

The Government needs to recognise the significance and importance of an immediate restart of sports, especially non-contact sport like track and field, which has been the life blood of so many people on the island for so many years.

And the fallout of the non-resumption of sports goes beyond the senior athletes who represent the country on the international stage. It also threatens to affect the next generation and probably beyond that, as athletes of all ages are being affected by inactivity.

Jamaica needs a proactive approach from the Government as far as the resumption of sports is concerned, to ensure that the fallout from the pandemic is not felt in all areas of life, even 40 years from now.