Compensation for medallists: A practice the world overThursday, August 12, 2021
Last night, on TVJ, the public was asked for suggestions as to how medallists at the Olympics could be compensated.
Jamaicans have been participating — with distinction — in the Olympics from as far back as 1948 and it was only on two occasions — 1956 and 1964 — that the country did not win a medal.
The 2008 Olympics were by far the country's best showing. Jamaica nearly doubled its gold medal count. Athletes also broke the nation's record for the number of medals earned in a single Games. The 2008 appearance was the 15th consecutive appearance as an independent nation. The previous appearances were as a British colony. In 29 events that included Jamaican athletes, there were 26 events in which a Jamaican athlete or relay team progressed to a final round. Usain Bolt won three of Jamaica's six gold medals at Beijing, breaking an Olympic and World record in all three of the events in which he participated, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce led an unprecedented Jamaican sweep of the medals in the women's 100m.
Maybe a look at what other countries are doing could be of help. The Taiwanese woman weightlifter Hsu Shu-Ching was rewarded for her win in Rio with US $952,000 by Taiwan's Ministry of Education. Swimmer Joseph Schooling won Singapore's first-ever gold medal and was awarded US$ 746,000. Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and Brazil all make six-figure payouts to their Olympic gold medallists.
France, South Korea, Japan, China, and the United States also reward medallists with money but on a much smaller scale. China offers about US$36,000 for a gold medal win, while the US Olympic committee rewards gold medals with $37,000, $25,000 for silver, and $17,00 for bronze.
In 2012, while motorists blocked traffic in Half-Way-Tree waiting on our women to run in the 200m finals, Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago hurled the javelin 84.58m — a new World record. He became an instant hero in his country. A motorcade was waiting for him at the airport, and the day of his arrival was declared a public holiday. After all, this was Trinidad and Tobago's second-ever gold medal. A lighthouse and an airplane were named after him, he got US$150,000 cash, a new luxury flat and 20,000 sq ft of land.
Not to be outdone, China's golden swimmers Sui Ying and Ye Shi-Wen were each given 1,500 sq ft apartments by a local developer.
Those of us waiting on reparation money from Britain may be wondering how generous our colonial masters are to their athletes. Well Britain offers them nothing. Zilch. But some of the most 'mouth-watering' incentives have come from Europe. One Belarusian meat producer promised successful athletes “unlimited sausages” for their efforts. It would seem as if many of these countries, impressed and inspired by little Jamaica's performances, are making these generous payouts in an effort to jump-start their athletic performances. But pedigree is not obtained overnight. It is a record of ancestry that offers proof that the subject is pure-bred. If one ignores the constant running— away from British plantations — ours would go back to 1948.
In my own discussions with some of those who represented this country decades ago, one of the best gifts that can be offered is an assurance that they will be able to live out their twilight years with dignity and without need. This is not limited to gold medallists but to all who don the black, green, and gold to represent their country. Too many are suffering with dignity.