Jamaica’s Athletes Underpaid while they Overperform?

Jamaican athletes are forced to struggle on meagre per diems or none while they deliver ace performances at global athletic meets. In the wake of the 2015 World Championships in Beijing Asafa Powell, one of Jamaica’s most beloved and talented athletes, is speaking out.

“The Jamaican public pretend as if there are only ten persons here at the World Championships, what happens to the other forty who have to go back home after the championship and won’t get the chance to go to any track meet? If these athletes can get help for even five months out of the year, that would help.”

Powell added that they have started to ignore some of the promises from government over the years.

.@officialasafa u Zagrebu tjedan dana prije mitinga na Mladosti: "Napast ću Boltov rekord" >> http://t.co/YwEWSmwFdz http://t.co/xi9kHj88o7

.@officialasafa u Zagrebu tjedan dana prije mitinga na Mladosti: “Napast ću Boltov rekord” >>  http://bit.ly/1JJEibn  pic.twitter.com/xi9kHj88o7
@officialasafa Exposing the plight of the emerging Jamaican athletes. & den ppl have the nerve fi a pressure U. Weh dem know bout pressure?
Coming up: @kayraynor will tell us about a special report coming up on Prime Time Sports on @televisionjam – athletes talk frankly
Excellent feature on Jamaican athletes @televisionjam. @officialasafa got it right. The Jamaica team is not just 10 people.
Talking talking talking…our athletes want help just to train & maintain their bodies. I didn’t know it was this bad.
If our athletes don’t get a medal…understand they have serious struggles. Our Govnt only recognizes the athletes who win a medal..
@officialasafa interview hit the nail on the head. GOJ needs to invest in d athletes especially during competition season @televisionjam
@IamBathsheba thank you..Being a professional athlete is a 9-5 job if ur gonna do it right. They r struggling & need support ..It’s not easy
Proud of @officialasafa for speaking out for the athletes…
@KellyKatharin Odayne made a good pt. medical persons could donate their time. Per diem of USD25 in Toyko..smh @officialasafa #athletes
@officialasafa respect is due to you and all our athletes for all the hard work & dedication you guys show my support is solid for you guys
@rastabenji not sure u realize that over the years many who have have helped those who have not … It can’t be on athletes alone to help
@rastabenji there is a small@percentage of athletes that earn a significant sum. You can prob count them on one hand. It wouldn’t be 1/2
@rastabenji for them alone 2b contributing 2an endowment fund ..That’s what the JAAA’s r in place to do along w/things like the Chase Fund
@rastabenji what is needed is a sound and solid plan! Athletes do it even have a health care plan …. The basics are not there
@rastabenji well maybe those funds can be funneled into the company that was set up some years ago Jamaica Sport & managed / invested etc
@unclemiltywho thank you … It would have been wrong not to speak up
@rastabenji I don’t have the answers I only hope that this will be a spark to get the right people together to start change
@Giselle_JA amen! We are going to have a fund raiser in November will share details in a few weeks
@officialasafa said it. Even 5 months support. Not all their bills, just cover training, nutrition etc. It is an investment that will pay.
Most of our athletes work full time + train. Look at how well they do w/all of that can u imagine if they could dedicate themselves fully?
@jasondadzmorgan coaches himself. Everyday..No help..No guidance & he holds the record. What if he had a coach? What if he had a programme?
Did u know @jasondadzmorgan uses his phone to record himself 2c what he’s doing right/wrong? Everyday w/no help. I repeat he has the record
That is heart… That is determination
Did you know that #danehyatt was injured after the 2012 Olympics & has never received treatment… His calls and emails go unanswered
Yet he has worked steadily to rehab himself and show up taking off from work to represent our country..That is heart…That is determination
Did u know that most athletes like @Leford_Green left WC & if not for their families they wouldnt be able to cover their rent? That is heart
They showed up knowing they may not go back to a job or cover their bills … They showed up for you … For Jamaica.
when I tweeted that mssg durin WC abt whn u can get on a trck/field/court & perform this is y. They gve thr ALL & if dem nuh win thyr bashed
So when you decide to bash an athlete for not coming 1st or for hitting a hurdle or not making semis remember he or she gave up so much 4u
10 athletes do not make a team …. There were 42 others right there with them giving their all for you and for our country
They deserve the same respect as the 1’sthat crossed the line 1st..They sacrificed a lot to be there.That is heart & that is determination
Did you know that most of our athletes flip a coin to decided between supplements, gym, rehab or food for their kids …Which u think wins?
All they want is a shot… A shot to be the best they can be… That’s not asking for much. Not just 2b remembered in a championship year
@GoldielockzAma no image rights were brokered it was a free for all … No athlete saw a dollar
@Chelle10camp there will be a fundraiser in November… Will share info soon – thank you
@wayajol @mamachell I am not talking about questions…. Questions and bashing are 2 different things
@deikamorrison @officialasafa then calculate the per capita impact of medals on Brand Jamaica and the lack of reinvestment. It nuh right.
Athletes left for Bahrain so many cussed them. Every single time they hit that track they wear themselves down and for what @officialasafa
Did u know that4the last 2 Nt’l trails @jasondadzmorgan wouldnt hve been able 2attend if not for a fan/fellow athlete paying for his ticket?
I hope that today marks the beginning of change …. For all of our athletes … They deserve a fair chance. They have earned it
@deikamorrison @officialasafa it’s not sustainable for clubs like #MVP #Racers & others to foot bills of athletes. We need another ntl plan
.@officialasafa a very telling interview was listening to Jermaine Gonzalez on @shearer39 NNN relating the struggles of some athlete
If you missed it the story will be back on @televisionjam in the repeat of news at 10:30pm #supportourathletes
@officialasafa More voice need 2speak up1week ago we finish 4th mis medal by inches 4 Jamaica & today I’m filling out a job applications
@chamberschamp another example of the struggles of our athletes …. Hold firm me bredda … Betta Muss Come! #supportourathletes
@chamberschamp @officialasafa See it there now. Grim reality. Yesterday at WC, today seeking a job. How can we expect great results?
@officialasafa I mentally/psychology Hurt today know that I’m running 44sec in 400m and looking 4 and 9-5 job to support myself 4 #Rio2016
@officialasafa seein athletes frm other small islands gettin crazy supports frm their country without achieving 1/2 the success of Jamaica
@RealLifeDiva_ we are having a fundraiser in November but link him @jasondadzmorgan he doesn’t bite lol
@Tamarac1954 @chamberschamp well sir weeeks ago I was participating in World Championships which ended on Mon. I did that interview last Sun
@geordavis @kalilahe Sportsnationlive with @shearer39 explored the challenges being faced by athletes months ago! Replay the interview
Dionne Jackson Miller

Kayon Raynor ‘s story on our struggling athletes is going to generate a lot of discussion – and has already. The first response – I predict – from “authority” is going to be that they help quietly but that the athletes are either too demanding or they can’t provide the level of help needed. (That has been said already on several occasions in different ways). Here’s what I think. Time to take this long-simmering issue which creates untold resentment into the air and ventilate it with a national discussion, with the aim of finally coming up with solutions. Tired of the secrecy and whispering, and the opaque responses. I fully believe that help has been provided. But I fully believe that athletes are suffering, and the pot-cover banging and photo ops, without much more, I suspect, help feed the resentment. What are the possibilities? Structured assistance? Another lottery specifically for this purpose in association with help from donations/corporate Jamaica? Why should this not be a public conversation, especially regarding any kind of structured assistance? What can we and what can’t we do? Juliet Flynn has been saying for years, for example, that there needs to be more creativity eg a national gym/facility/partly sponsored by corporate Jamaica, where athletes could get physiotherapy, massages, treatments.. It is time to stop the cycle of banging pot covers in HWT then forgetting about them until the next big event. It’s time to have an honest, open conversation about this. I don’t think we have done so yet.

Jamaican Swag: Usain Bolt, Arthur Wint and the #Beijing2015 World Championships

commentary on Jamaica’s stellar performance at the world championships in Beijing 2015 with must-see video footage.

The video above is from Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce’s Facebook feed. It shows the 200m final in Beijing up close and personal and in slow mo too–

“Bolt not only reached for the moon in Beijing, but also has shown that he wasn’t a flash in the pan or an outlier. Four years later he has picked the moon out of the sky again and has done it with ease and bravado, again something Jamaicans dearly love. You must not only win, you must do it with effortless style—something Bolt has displayed over and over again. His derring-do and bravura performances are symbolic of the Jamaican ambition to appear cool and deadly at all times.”

Three years after I wrote that paragraph for Newsweek Bolt has pulled it off yet again. A thrilling double gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the Beijing 2015 World Championships (see video above for footage of the 200m). As he matures Bolt has grown into a thoroughly engaging, all conquering hero, the legendary status he once coveted now his permanently. He is the athlete of the century, this one and the last.

At Bolt’s side is the equally swift and admirable Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce now the most decorated female runner on the planet with three 100m gold medals in the World Championships alone. And in their wake are the myriad of other Jamaican athletes plucking medals from the rest of the world, with ease and grace; young Danielle Williams winning the gold in the 100m hurdles and Hansle Parchment silver in the 110m hurdles. The women’s 200m gold went to the flying Dutchwoman, Dafne Schippers, a talent to watch, but Jamaica’s elegant, gazelle-like Elaine Thompson was hot on her heels and the much beloved Veronica Campbell-Brown hot on hers. They took the silver and bronze respectively.

Not many people realize that Jamaica has a proud tradition of sprinting going back more than half a century—to 1948 when 6 foot 4 inches tall Arthur Wint sped past Herb McKenley to win gold in the 400m. Jamaica took gold and silver in that race which can be viewed in the video immediately above. In the 1952 Olympics Jamaican runners swept the 4×400 relays from under the feet of the Americans. The video embedded below has incredible footage of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley mining some of Jamaica’s earliest Olympic gold.


Finally here is the full text of the essay I wrote for Newsweek during the 2012 London Olympics. It captures I think some of the indomitable spirit of Jamaica and Jamaicans.

Jamaica gained independence from Britain in August 1962. As the nascent nation replaced the Union Jack with the Jamaican flag, its people imagined a future full of glory, honor, and world-thrilling exploits. With the colonizers gone and the days of slavery far behind, what could stop them from conquering the world?

As the decades rolled on, a deep and abiding disappointment began to set in as successive governments fluffed opportunities to create a workable, new framework for the aspirations and ambitions of ordinary Jamaicans. For many, things seemed to be worse than when the British were in charge; you only had to look over at the Cayman Islands for confirmation. Once part of Jamaica, the Caymanians had remained with Britain in 1962 and now seemed to be flourishing while Jamaica languished, violence and corruption paralyzing its body politic.

Most postcolonial countries have found it hard to overcome the handicaps they inherited at independence, and Jamaicans are rightly proud of their superb tradition in athletics and the country’s incomparable music, both of which have catapulted them onto the world stage on more than one occasion. For a nation this tiny, Jamaica has an ego and cultural wallop grander than most superpowers, punching way above its weight, as some here like to say.

It’s a matter of some chagrin to middle-class Jamaica that those who have put this little country on the map have been, almost without exception, members of its underclass. While formal, official Jamaica lumbers along tangled in red tape, bureaucratese, and “proper” English, the people at the bottom have sprinted and sung their way to international attention.

The exploits of Usain Bolt and his fellow Jamaican athletes have to be seen against this background. They all come from deprived communities, and each is a story of personal triumph and determination in the face of incredible odds. Usain Bolt is the personification of what Jamaicans would have liked their country to be: swift, insouciant, and unbeatable at what he does best—run. When he powered to the finish line in record time during the 100-meter, with Yohan Blake in close pursuit, they were elated. But nothing can describe the mood of brimming joy that has pervaded the nation since Bolt repeated his triumph in the 200m, once again with Blake hot on his heels. And then, as an example of what Jamaicans call “brawta”—a little extra thrown in to perfect the whole thing—Warren Weir in bronze position, completing the Jamaican trifecta.

Nothing warms the heart of Jamaicans more than to hear a story about someone triumphing against all odds, through sheer perseverance, guts, and hard work to prove his or her talent and ability. “Never say die” should have been the national motto, for as long as you try your best, even if you lose, Jamaicans will love you. But you’ll have to die trying.

Bolt not only reached for the moon in Beijing, but also has shown that he wasn’t a flash in the pan or an outlier. Four years later he has picked the moon out of the sky again and has done it with ease and bravado, again something Jamaicans dearly love. You must not only win, you must do it with effortless style—something Bolt has displayed over and over again. His derring-do and bravura performances are symbolic of the Jamaican ambition to appear cool and deadly at all times.

Jamaica is a contradictory mix of individualism and community spirit. Bolt was raised by a village, Sherwood Content, in rural Jamaica. What Jamaicans love is the fact that although you could take the boy out of the village, you couldn’t take the village out of Bolt. At heart he remains the healthy-spirited, simple-hearted boy who grew up there, though he now knows how to negotiate the deadly streets of Kingston and the world.

As video footage of Bolt and his teammates in Birmingham and at the Olympic Village shows, the Jamaican men’s team thrives on camaraderie, good will, and fun and games. Do it well and enjoy what you’re doing is another Jamaican homily, illustrated by the young men and women of this extraordinary little country. On the Olympic stage it’s been a winning strategy.

To be the best in the world is what every Jamaican would like, though circumstances often come between them and this simple ambition. Bolt is beloved because he has honed his natural gifts to perfection with enough gas left in the tank to reach higher and farther.

Usain Bolt: A Latter-day Hermes? Part 2

In which i respond to criticism of my Usain Bolt article which appeared in Newsweek, July 16. Part of the problem may have been caused by the inevitable editing process which condenses and removes context in some cases, throwing statements into starker relief than was intended.

Street artist James Cochran, also known as Jimmy C, works on his spray painted picture of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in Sclater Street car park in east LondonPicture: REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Olympic security. Soldiers doing a Usain Bolt impression waiting to enter the Olympic Park on Sunday 15/07/2012 Pic by Frances Leader

On the rare occasion when i’ve had to teach a writing class, usually to students at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies at the University of the West Indies, there are  three publications i use as exemplars of the best writing available in English today. They are Time, Newsweek and the Economist. These three global newsmagazines, employ some of the best writers in the world today evident in the tightly constructed, yet fluid articles they feature, some no more than half a page in length, or a few hundred words, but words so expertly chosen and so economically strung together that (like the ant which carries loads several times its size on its tiny back) the quantity of information they convey belies their slender word counts.

Or so i thought. When i relayed this opinion at a dinner party once, someone, and I wish i could remember who this was, suggested that I was wrong. It’s not good writers these newsmagazines have, she or he said, it’s excellent editors. Hmmmm i thought to myself at the time, not entirely convinced. Now in the wake of writing an article on Usain Bolt for the current issue of Newsweek I know exactly what they meant; they were right.

When i got back the first edit of my article from Sam Seibert, an editor at Newsweek, i was mortified but also somewhat pleased. It was a drastic edit, with some rewriting and additions to my text in places (was my writing as poor as that?), but on the whole i couldn’t deny that it had improved my submission considerably. In fact there were some lessons about writing that Sam’s expert editing and rewriting reminded me of and i can’t thank him enough for this. The transition from one paragraph to another for instance; how to link thoughts and words so that the narrative flows along at a clip bearing the reader along.

Of course some of the changes inevitably shift the emphasis, sometimes even altering the meaning that was originally intended. I was given the opportunity to correct his rewrite more than once but the turnaround time was short and in retrospect i see a few things now which i should have rephrased. They’ve come to my attention because of the number of negative reactions, even objections to some of the things i say in the article. For example Dionne Jackson-Miller, one of the top journalists here whose shows I regularly tune into on radio and tv,  posted on Facebook saying: Several comments gave me pause Annie Paul like this one…” In a land where hardly anything else works, an exemplary tradition of track-and-field instruction and competition has flourished for almost 100 years. ” Gonna have to think about that – are we really as underdeveloped as that suggests?

I could see her point, it was a harsh statement. Had i really said that? i went back to the text I had sent Newsweek and found something slightly different: “In a country where hardly anything works as it should an exemplary tradition of track and field instruction and administration has existed for almost 100 years.

In fact it’s worth quoting the entire section this line was taken from, in which in an attempt to explain the Bolt phenomenon i try to sketch out the roots of the athletic culture that has developed in Jamaica.

Biological and dietary considerations aside the truth is that to ‘get’ Usain you have to get Jamaica, a country and culture riven by contradictions and inconsistency. To call Jamaica a ‘sprint factory’ is misleading; far from churning out cookie-cutter champions Jamaica is a crucible in which unique, world-class runners are formed, bursting onto the world stage at regular intervals and conquering it against all odds. They’ve been doing this since the 1948 Olympics when Jamaican runners, Arthur Wint and Herbert McKenley, won gold and silver in the 400m. In a country where hardly anything works as it should an exemplary tradition of track and field instruction and administration has existed for almost 100 years.

A nation of fervent Christians and bible thumpers, Jamaica has a deeply entrenched network of churches which may have been very receptive to nineteenth century British ideas about ‘muscular Christianity’. This may explain why running became so popular; anyone, anywhere could do it you didn’t neeed deep pockets or an expensive infrastructure to become a runner. By the middle of the twentieth century the sport was flourishing in Jamaica. According to Patrick Robinson, author of Jamaican Athletics: “There is no entity or area of endeavour in Jamaica, whether in the public or private sector, that is as well organized and, applying international standards, has been as consistently successful as track and field athletics.”  

Whereas earlier generations of promising athletes with Olympic ambitions had to go abroad to be trained on track scholarships, Jamaica now has its own world-class coaches, trainers and managers. Stephen Francis of MVP Track Club and Glen Mills of Racers Track Club are two whose homegrown battalion of runners in the last two Olympics stupefied the world. Glen Mills is not only Usain Bolt’s coach, he is also the man behind young Yohan Blake, Bolt’s most dangerous opponent in the upcoming Olympic 100 and 200m races.

Blessed with exceptional natural talent in running Usain Bolt benefited from the systems already in place to identify potential athletes and train them. His passion as a child was cricket and he played on his school team from an early age. Fortunately his father and others noticed the speed with which he ran down the pitch and sent him to the William Knibb Memorial High School, a school with a strong track and field programme that gave sports scholarships and has produced a number of the country’s top athletes including the multiple-gold medal winning Veronica Campbell Brown.

Much of this landed on the cutting floor during Newsweek’s editorial process and what was left was this:

Running is a sport that seems practically ideal for a country like Jamaica. You don’t need deep pockets or fancy equipment to become a great runner. In a land where hardly anything else works, an exemplary tradition of track-and-field instruction and competition has flourished for almost 100 years. The island first seized the world’s attention back in 1948 when Jamaican runners Arthur Wint and Herbert McKenley won the gold and silver in the 400m in London.

Nevertheless, the sport that first captured the boy’s heart was not running, but cricket. He played on his school team from an early age, and it was on the pitch that his extraordinary speed first caught the attention of the town’s grown-ups. He became a prize recruit for William Knibb Memorial High School, which featured both a strong track-and-field program and sports scholarships. Knibb has produced many of Jamaica’s top athletes.

Sam Seibert’s editing of my article was so drastic that i actually asked if he’d be sharing the byline with me, but that’s not the convention in most major print media. It was interesting to come across an article called How the Byline Beast was Born, the very day after i got back the first edit of my article. I realized that there was no need for me to be crestfallen, that the process i had just undergone was pretty standard. In Byline Beast Jack Shafer was writing about the recent fuss about Journatic a content farm that provides local news stories to news media all over the United States. It’s a fascinating article i highly recommend, the following is only a small quote of immediate relevance to the editorial process i describe above:

In even the most professional of newsrooms, editors frequently do sufficient work on a piece – reporting and re-reporting sections, composing long passages without the assistance of the bylined writer, redefining the story’s parameters – that they deserve a byline or at least a co-byline. Yet magazine, newspaper and wire editors rarely receive this credit for their extraordinary interventions.

Although I highlight the radical edit of my article in this post I don’t blame it entirely for people’s reactions to what I’ve said in this article. When I call Jamaica a country where hardly anything functions as it should I’m referring to the major structures of governance that  serve the needs of most citizens here so poorly that they’ve created their own informal structures and processes. While middle-class Jamaicans may well find things to be proud of–the system does work on their behalf after all–large numbers of poorer Jamaicans may disagree, for there is a sharp divergence in the way they are treated by the Police, the Justice system, the education system and government processes in general. Even the media in Jamaica treats you differently based on whether you come from uptown or downtown.

Incidentally the text i sent Newsweek was titled Usain Bolt: A Latter-day Hermes? but news media here and elsewhere rarely use headlines provided by writers, they have special people on board just to write headlines.

There were other things i said in my article which upset readers here and in the diaspora. I’ll discuss those in subsequent posts. In the meantime enjoy this Dorian Scott video of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and others building a vibe on the racetrack in Birmingham while they prepare for the Olympics. Scott is representing Jamaica in shotput at the upcoming Olympics. You may need a Facebook account to view the video but it’s well worth it.

PS: The photos at the top of this post are from the UK Telegraph.

Usain Bolt: A Latter-day Hermes?

A link to my article on Usain Bolt in Newsweek International this week…

Presenting my article on Usain Bolt which appears in Newsweek International this week…

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt: Is He Still the World’s Fastest Runner?
Jul 16, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Will lightning strike again in London? Or have the years of fast living finally caught up with the speediest man alive? A close look at the Jamaican record breaker.

The Twitter messages seemed calculated to drive Jamaica frantic. “Driving the black speed today,” Usain Bolt informed his followers as he posted an Instagram image of his chosen vehicle for the day, a 2009 Nissan GT-R. “Nothing but speed for the fastest,” he added. Still, the world-record sprinter could scarcely ignore the fact that the last thing they want is for him to risk yet another smashup in the final days before the 2012 London Games. “I will take it easy lol,” he promised.

For more please visit the Daily Beast website or pick up a print edition:

The Bolt and the Beast…

An account of the Men’s and Women’s 100m finals at Jamaica’s Olympic national trials where world records were broken and the winning times were faster than those in the American trials.

Finish of Jamaican Olympic trials men’s 100m semifinal, the winning blur is Asafa Powell…

So i was at the stadium yesterday for that thrilling 100m men’s race which saw Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt and Yohan ‘the Beast’ Blake vying with each other for first place. Asafa had won his semifinal and Bolt his. In the final Powell lead the way coming out of the starting blocks fast unlike Bolt who lumbered a bit in the beginning. All eyes were on them when the Beast running in lane 7, seemed to appear out of nowhere, gaining on the others by leaps and bounds and slicing into the finish line a head ahead of Bolt who had by then overtaken Powell. I mean it doesn’t get much better than this.

Earlier we had enjoyed Shelly Ann Fraser’s seemingly easy, thrilling run to victory over a star-studded cast of runners including Veronica Campbell-Brown, Kerron Stuart and others. All in all it was a great evening bedevilled in the early stages by a malfunctioning starter’s gun. How can a gun not work in Jamaica asked a man within earshot, looking puzzled.

There was some gloom earlier in the day when news broke that Asafa Powell had injured himself and might miss the semis and final. Exasperated Jamaicans cussed him left, right and centre citing mental weakness, psychological problems, general all round fecklessness etc trying to understand why this runner so beloved of everyone here seems so prone to injury and misfortune. This time there was also anger at the prospect of being robbed of the chance to see the great Jamaican running triumvirate compete against each other in the same race.

People were thrilled therefore to see Powell on the field when the time came for the semis and he got a huge roar of applause when his name was called. He then proceeded to run better than anyone has seen him run in recent years delighting his fans, though some felt he should have maintained his early lead to the end.

What I didn’t realize till this morning was that Powell had torn his groin during the quarter final heats on Thursday evening and been flown to Miami for medical attention. When he ran yesterday he had only been back from Miami four hours before the semi-finals and knowing how disappointed the public would be if he didn’t run had insisted on taking part. I hope he didn’t aggravate his injury by doing so, but as someone said on Twitter, “The man have heart and guts.”

i couldn’t identify the author of this image so it remains unattributed though the AP suggests it might be an Associated Press photograph.

Now everyone waits breathlessly for the 200m finals tomorrow night when Bolt and Blake meet again. I think Bolt should prevail because the 200m gives him more time to recover from his slow starts and he’ll certainly want to teach young Blake a thing or two after being pipped by him in the 1000m.

Incidentally the winning times in both men’s and women’s 100m races were faster than those in the American trials the week before. So once again Jamaica has a monopoly on the fastest men and women in the world.

I hope to be there but it all depends on ticket availability. It’s quite clear that something highly irregular is going on with ticket sales for the National Senior Championships to give it its proper title. I went to the ticket office on Thursday morning to get grandstand tickets for Friday and was told they only had bleachers available. All around the ticket office were scalpers offering grandstand tickets at three or four times the official price. Even on the way to the stadium the street was full of young men flogging tickets. Yet i heard from a friend this morning that she was able to obtain grandstand tickets from the Stadium ticket office at 12.30 pm on Friday! But there’s a coda. In response to my incredulous “you got grandstand tickets at the stadium office?!” she replied:

“Believe it – what’s more interesting is that I had a white American with me and SHE got the tickest although they told me they had none – scandalous if you ask me”

What are we celebrating this year again? 50 years of WHAT? smh…when will we ever live up to the standards set by our heroic athletes? Will it take another 50 years to get there? Talk about slow starts…

The Boy with the Golden Shoes

Sign in Jamaican storefront during Beijing Olympics

One of the things I most regretted about being in India this August was that I wasn’t in Jamaica during the World Championships in Berlin. Having experienced the sheer exhileration in Kingston, August gone, during the Beijing Games, I knew only too well what I was missing. Because of the time difference and probably because India itself had minimal participation (for such a great nation we have produced remarkably few great athletes) I wasn’t able to watch any of the races live, though by the end of the month Usain Bolt had become a household name all over again in India as well as the rest of the world.

In the last couple of weeks the airwaves and other media have been buzzing with reactions to the Government’s decision to rename Highway 2000 (the superfast major cross-island artery built with French technology) the Usain Bolt Highway. Yesterday on Facebook a local journalist posted what are allegedly a parliamentary reporter’s notes on a Cabinet discussion about honouring Usain Bolt…read on.

Yesterday at 5:38pm

So I managed to pull off a coup. A major scoop so to speak. I got hold of some very interesting cabinet notes on honouring Usain Bolt.

Apparently, Prime Minister Bruce Golding asked his ministers to come up with ideas on what tangible things the country could do to honour Usain and here’s what they came up with:

1) Change Jamaica’s Coat of Arms to “Bolt Arms”

2) Rename the parish of Trelawny – Usain Bolt

3) Rename Yam – call it Usain

4) Make him our 8th National Hero ( It was decided this will come after the next Olympics, they’ll need that long to research how to accord a person National Hero status)

5) Put him on the 10,000 dollar bill (Audley assured Cabinet that the denomination would be coming by next May)

6) Have 9.58 days of bashment celebrating Usain ( I swear Babsy did suggest this)

7) Rename William Knibb High School Usain Bolt High ( Ruddy Spencer asked who is William Knibb and why does he have things named after him? )

8) Declare August 21 Usain Bolt Day and make it a public Holiday ( Cabinet was very upset with Chris Tufton for this one. Andrew Holness said it sounded too PNP. Di man hold up di “fist” one time and tell Jamaica to put di “X” beside di Head and dem won’t let it go.)

9) Make his home in Sherwood Content a national landmark ( It was pointed out that the community still lacks piped water and Dr. Horace Chang couldn’t guarantee that they’d get it in Usain’s lifetime.)

10) Make Usain’s favourite food the National dish and create a new designation national night club and give that to the “Quad”.

11) Change the national dress, to all Puma and make it mandatory for everyone to wear the Yamm shoes. (However all agreed they certainly wouldn’t be orange like the ones that Usain wore. Chris Tufton was eerily silent).

12) Finally settle this Gully/Gaza mess and make everybody say Gaza since ah dat Usain say (I feel Babsy in this again)

13) Write Oxford to have the word “fast” in the dictionary replaced with “Usain” (Mike Henry). Babsy agreed and thought we should get “sobolious” added as well!

14) Rename Air Jamaica, Usain Air.

15) SUGGESTION FROM BRUCE GOLDING: Rename Jamaica – Usain. The PM said “There’s no honour that’s too great for this young man and right now the national profile has been taken to echelons far beyond our greatest expectations because of Usain’s feet!”

Well, long before the Jamaican government decided to honour Usain Bolt and before he became a household name outside Jamaica a Spanish national named Fernando Guereta (Nando) decided to honour Bolt and Jamaica’s athletes with a film celebrating their exploits. Called “Why do Jamaicans Run So Fast?” this superbly conceived and crafted documentary-style film creatively captures the environment these athletes spring from in Jamaica.

On the verge of signing major distribution and international TV rights deals Guereta has scooped the world on this. With a beautiful soundtrack and interviews with Usain from the age of 15 onwards the culture that has produced such indomitable talent is centrestaged, with a prominent role accorded to dancehall music and the dances that inspired Usain, Melaine Walker, Shelly Ann Fraser and others to dare to grab their share of the pie.

I asked Nando about the role of music in the film and this is what he said. Keep in mind that he’s not a native English-speaker which makes what he’s done that much more remarkable.

“My two main concerns were to cover all music genres, from ska, to roots reggae and moving towards the latests dancehall hits. The second concern was to make the music match the images properly, even if I sound a little bit arrogant I think we achieve to deliver very well in both matters.

Heptones’ Country Boy matched Bolts origins, Bob Marley’s Bad Card reminds the world that dem a go tyaad fe see Bolt face, Movado reminds Melaine Walker not to forget about the Gully, Bugle ask Carl Lewis what have Bolt done to him, and Jah Cure seh as long as I live he will remember those days.”

Watch this spot over the next week for more from Nando on the making of “Why Do Jamaicans Run so Fast?”

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