Bolt: greatest Oly influence

An ‘em-Boltened’ Jamaica

Monday, September 01, 2008

Quick! How will Jamaica take advantage of the huge boost from our Olympics performance? What are the details of the plan? Who will do what and by when? Yes, we are in a hurry to hear these plans unfold. Just as we demanded, “Run Usain, run,” we had better get on our golden shoes, pick up the pace and produce the best results.

This effort needs no bandwagoners - we need fast and furious planning committees capable of rolling out not only a four-day celebration, but also vibrant long-term plans to ensure that we remain the sprint capital of the world. We have the gold - now we need the best artisans to make from it a lasting legacy for our country. (The post-Gustav reconstruction will now have to kick in first, but should be no excuse for undue procrastination.)

What a legacy! When we got the estimate for our Beijing trip, we half-jokingly (only half) told our children that they would now have to work and study even harder, because we were about to spend their inheritance. It turns out that Beijing gave them and all Jamaica a legacy far more valuable that any dollars they could receive.

Our great athletes have been featured in a beautiful commercial over the past year, appealing for peace. Watch it again, and look into their eyes. They meant every word. And now they have become the most powerful messengers to our little shottas: a shooting star dies quickly, a real star shines forever. A shooting star has no goal, no aim, no destiny; a real star lights the way for others, takes our breath away in the darkest night and helps to steer our troubled thoughts to shores of hope.

Last Monday, the China Daily ran a big story headlined, “Bolt’s heroics arrive just in time”. “Athletics got the hero it has been craving for years when Usain Bolt lit up the Bird’s Nest with his brilliance,” it said.

The President of the International Association of Athletics Federation Lamine Diack is quoted as saying that Bolt has had the greatest impact of any athlete in the Games’ history: “He is great for our sport, he can help to build up our sport. He was fantastic, we are very privileged to have this.”

Chief of Mission for our Olympic Team Don Anderson, said 350 international journalists crowded the media centre at the Olympic Village for a final briefing, clamouring to question Bolt. “Usain handled himself so well that one of the journalists asked if he was a member of Jamaica’s diplomatic corps,” smiled Don. We heard Bolt being interviewed on CNN and also address the Puma party. This is no airheaded young man - Mr and Mrs Wellesley Bolt, you did a fine job with your son.

We of the negative headlines, we of the violent history, we, Jamaica had a 350-strong press corps hanging on the every word of our athletes, happy to deliver positive headlines for the happiest athlete they had ever met, Usain Bolt.

Behind the scenes, Jamaica Sports Medicine Association representative Pat Lue-Chin said that of the past four Olympic Teams that she has worked with, this team was the fittest. This is no easy level of fitness to achieve: it takes superhuman training to give superhuman results - Usain Bolt’s two world records and a third with his awesome teammates, Veronica Campbell’s second consecutive Olympic Gold, Melaine Walker’s Olympic record, our 100m queens led by Shelly Ann Fraser. I have mentioned the great Glen Mills and Stephen Francis, and I met two other Olympic coaches, Maurice Wilson and Edward Hector, dedicated, unassuming gentlemen.

This Olympic effort has made Jamaica into the biggest little country in the world, and once again demonstrates the power of sports. As I gave a delighted Chinese waitress a Jamaica bracelet (“I will cher-it!” she said with a hand on her heart), I remembered an episode famously named “Ping Pong Diplomacy.” A gesture of friendship by Chinese Table Tennis Star Zhuang Zedong who presented a gift to American player Tim Boggan when they shared a bus in Japan in 1971, broke the ice between their two super-power countries. The gesture caught the attention of Chairman Mao Zedong, who decided to invite American President Richard Nixon for an official visit, opening the way for the richest trade relationship in the world.

Jamaica needs no thaw - we have been warm to all nations of the world and now all nations of the world are becoming increasingly warmer to us. So let us be emboldened - or rather, em-Boltened. As he approached the starting block to run his favourite event, the 200 metres, Bolt brushed his head to give a “no sweat” signal. This is the true mettle of the decent Jamaican, who is not afraid of the hard work or close scrutiny.

Fast like Lightning Bolt, let us get going in Jamaica. I agree with Mark Wignall’s suggestion to name the stadium in Trelawny in honour of the greatest track athlete of our time. Like the celebration of our first Winter Olympics outing, “Cool Runnings”, there is at least one good movie here, though the world would happily embrace a reality show of the athletes preparing for their next outing. We see huge opportunites for sports tourism, races of all lengths for all ages, serious meets and fun runs, original souvenirs which could put money in the pockets of craft workers.

Bob Marley catapulted reggae on to the world stage and still, other reggae

greats have not been able to enjoy a secure retirement. Some sportsmen who have kept our flag flying are not doing as well as they should financially. The Bruce Golding-led government has the best opportunity ever - to turn this country around so that those who have brought us glory will never live in penury. The PNP Opposition should allow the country to celebrate and not allow any party battle to rain on our athletes’ parade. They ran for one Jamaica - let’s give them their wish for peace.


This column was written before the onslaught of Gustav, but try as he might he could not drown our Olympic spirit. Kudos to Prime Minister Golding for firmly taking charge of emergency and relief efforts. Hopefully, our renewed patriotic fervour should motivate us to give a helping hand to the victims.