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The legend has won

Lance Neita

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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Win, lose or draw, our athletes deserve the full support of Jamaicans for their participation in the IAAF World Championships in London. They were competitive, if not always in front, and represented Jamaica well. Hopefully we will go out in glory with the running of the relays; but whether or not, Jamaica was big in London this year.

It's not the expected medal haul, but when they start returning to the island I am sure Sport Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange will be according them full welcome and official honours. We must not fall short of the accolades given in times of victory. The same quality welcome and salutations should be offered as done when they bring back gold to our shores.

We did not do as well as predicted, but Jamaica still has the respect of the world's athletes and will be a formidable team at the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan. You might say we were just using these championships as a trial run for the big one in Japan. Certainly we can look back at our failings and slip-ups and emerge stronger for the next round as we will have regrouped and identified where the weaknesses are.

I am one of the few that believe that the little beating will do us a world of good as we come down off our pomp and pride.

Having ruled the roost for the past 15 years, let's understand that victory can be a cyclical thing and we just have to pick ourselves up and get back into the ring.

And, congratulations and thanks once again to Usain Bolt. Even in losing he was a champion when he congratulated rival Justin Gatlin and gave him words of encouragement. Bolt has been a winner all his life, but when it came to losing he took it well and rose to the supreme level of sportsmanship.

I came across this quotation recently which I think defines him: “So he lost his final race, but when were men's finest hours defined solely by the ultimate outcome? What of their spirit, individual acts of supreme courage and bravery? What of their honesty, the way in which they represented their countries and enhanced the great values of their sport? Such qualities are the bedrock of the game.”

The other quotation that comes to mind is one that is often met with derision by those who prefer to assess greatness by the number of wins: “For when the great scorer comes to write against your name, He marks not that you won or lost but how you played the game.”

Apart from his records on the track, Bolt has left us with something else, something that can be priceless. His phenomenal performances on the track have been transposed to the ranks of legend.

Legends don't come easily. I went to Wikipedia to look up legend — Usain Bolt sends me there often as I try to define and put his awesome contributions into some perspective.

“A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and demonstrating human values, and which possesses certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude.

“Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of 'possibility', but may include miracles.

“Legends may be transformed over time in order to keep them fresh... vital and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted”.

So Jamaica has a living legend in Bolt.

But how will Jamaica benefit?

While in Opposition Grange suggested naming the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium in honour of both Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. This was in August 2015 during the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. I wrote at the time that the Usain Bolt Stadium would be most appropriate. Bolt ought to drive past that complex on his way home, a short distance away. But the point had to be made that the stadium would need to be upgraded and converted into something with more international appeal than an empty shell of a cricket bowl going to waste.

I further suggested that we could encourage the Chinese — who built it in the first place — to help us create a modern, world-class international sports training centre worthy of the name Usain Bolt, where people from all over the world would come to train in track and field, swimming, soccer, cricket, boxing, gymnastics, basketball, netball, you name it.

The Chinese came to mind not only as a source for funding, but because of Bolt's association with Beijing, where he is already considered a legend because of his performances in the Bird's Nest stadium.

I even cautiously suggested adding Beijing to the name — Bolt/ Beijing Stadium — as a teaser for the Chinese to show interest and conjure up possibilities. I admit, though, that the double name may not go down well with Bolt supporters.

An international sports training complex in Jamaica with accommodations, a calendar of major and mega events, indoor and outdoor facilities, lecture halls, convention meeting space would make Jamaica a mecca for sports development.

Sports marketing moves to the next level when you have a world-class institution that can promote tourism and economic development through sports. The Bolt International Multi-Sports Complex would not only attract in-house trainees, but also serve up weekly events to suit Jamaican as well as overseas fans who would fly to the island for the event and hopefully fill our hotel rooms.

Sports marketing is a big part of the vaunted National Tourism Plan, but frankly we haven't been seeing those major happenings that can engage visitors through sports on a regular basis with Brand Jamaica.

In the meantime, just remember this: Bolt may have retired, but he will never go away. He has given us some snapshots of greatness that will be this generation's privilege to carry for the rest of our lives. How can we ever forget the build-up to the various events when Bolt sometimes ran us crazy with reports of partying through the night, fab trips to European spas, and questions about his training, or lack thereof, hanging in the air and confounding our calculations?

He arrives at an airport and is treated like a prince, the porters fight with each other to carry his luggage, he gives tonnes and tonnes of interviews. Then the moment he approaches the track he romps almost boyishly to the starting blocks, smiles and waves at the crowds, and we know he is enjoying himself. Our confidence level grows as he looks around at his rivals, as if they are all pretenders to a throne that will always be his.

His showmanship is supreme. Nobody does it like Bolt. His familiar 'shhh' gesture is a kind of code to his fans — wait for it. Then, as he gets down to his mark he makes the sign of the cross and points a finger upwards as if to remind us, “Is not me, is Him.” And, after going through the finish line first, he does his famous 'Lightning Bolt' pose to the world. All of this has made him an institution beyond athletics.

Our prayers are answered. The legend has won. Half-Way-Tree rejoices. We will never see his likes again. But we can never forget.

Lance Neita is a public relations writer and consultant. Send comments to the Observer or lanceneita@hotmail.com.

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