Like a Bolt from the blue…Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica…

What makes Usain Bolt tick? How does Jamaican culture produce such an abundance of athletic superheroes? A selection of images, videos and texts about the unbeatable Bolt and his compatriots…including the up and coming Warren Weir.

Photo by Jamaican photographer Ricardo Makyn, after Bolt aces the 100m
Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt, after taking gold and silver in the 100m. Photo source unknown
Not sure when or where this was but Blake and Bolt are bussing a Jamaican dance move. Photo source unknown
Brilliant photoshopped cartoon by Keon Scarlett…
Usain Bolt with the undeclared winner of the 100m, Coach Glen Mills, who is also Yohan Blake’s coach. Photo source: Usain Bolt’s Instagram.

Just thought I’d post some of the interesting photos, articles and videos that I’ve collected off Twitter and Facebook about Usain Bolt and a few other Jamaican athletes. They give a better insight into Jamaica’s extraordinary athletes than you get from mass media. I think my favourite photo is the one of him with his coach, Glen Mills. You can clearly see the affection between them from the way Usain and Mills are talking to one another. Mills truly is a star in his own right; after all he’s responsible for training the two fastest men in the world today, Bolt and Yohan Blake, who won gold and silver in the Olympic 100m a couple of days ago. Would love to interview him but he dislikes media I understand.

Before that fateful race there were enough skeptics including Tim Layden who went on to write one of the best post-100m articles on Usain in Sports Illustrated. The quote below from a Slate article chronicles the widespread uncertainty about Bolt’s ability to prevail:

A couple of hours before today’s men’s 100-meter final, Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden made a bold prediction on Twitter: “OK. Go big or go home. My 100m pick: 1) Gatlin 2) Bolt 3) Blake.” Layden wasn’t the only one who was betting against Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter hadn’t run against a 100-meter field this stacked since 2009, when he set the world record of 9.58 seconds in Berlin. In 2011, a false start knocked him out of the world championships. At the Jamaican Olympic Trials earlier this year, he lost to Yohan Blake in both the 100 and 200 meters.

Bolt and Blake clowning around during training. Photo source unknown.

After the race Layden sang a different tune:

LONDON — In many ways, this one was better. Four years ago in China, Usain Bolt transformed the 100 meters into performance art, and the Olympics into a soliloquy, winning with such playful arrogance that it seemed less like a competition than a palette on which an emerging and transcendent talent could splash his greatness in great, broad strokes. The other sprinters were like extras in the Bolt Show, useful in the same way that painted planks of background scenery are deployed in a Broadway production. Bolt was bigger than all of them and so much faster. It wasn’t a race, it was an exhibition (and one that Bolt would repeat four days later in the 200 meters and again in the 4×100-meter relay; three gold medals and an unprecedented three world records. He did likewise a year later at the 2009 world championships in Berlin).

The world gathered again to witness Bolt on Sunday night in London’s Olympic Stadium. Many had surely not seen him since Beijing, as track and field lives on the distant margins of mainstream sport and Bolt is its only true star. In a superficial sense, he did not leave them wanting, winning the 100-meter gold medal in 9.63 seconds, an Olympic record and the second-fastest time in history (behind only his world record of 9.58 from Berlin) and .06 faster than he ran in Beijing. But this was not a virtuoso encore, this was a race, and it had begun more than two years earlier.

To read more go here:

Bolt celebrating with Swedish handball players. He’s got them making the Gaza sign–in tribute to his favourite DJ Vybz Kartel. The sign is also used by US West Coast hip hop musicians.
Warren Weir and Usain doing the Gaza sign, while Yohan Blake looks on. Photo source: Warren Weir’s Instagram

Meanwhile on Foxsport.com Greg Couch lamented USA Track and Field’s lack of get up and go while ruefully noting Bolt’s casual, cool but deadly sporting style:

Usain Bolt posed again with Bolt Arms pointing to the sky, then put his hands behind his ears to get the crowd to yell for him more, as if they could. And then he sprinted his 200-meter heat Tuesday to an easy victory.

Well, actually, he sprinted about 125 of it, then jogged the other 75 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals.

“I was taking it as easy as possible,’’ he said. “It’s my first (200) run. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.’’

This was basically a day off for Bolt, with a quick Olympic run mixed in. But there’s no day off in the Bolt buzz.

Let’s see: He tweeted back and forth with a Manchester United player, saying he wants to try out for the team. He snuck past one of the picky Olympic rules he complained about the other night, hiding a jump rope in the bottom of his bag. After saying he wasn’t going to celebrate winning the 100 because he needed sleep, he emerged in a picture with three female Swedish handball players, supposedly partying with him in his room at 3 a.m.

This isn’t to be critical of Bolt for any of that, by the way. As an American, I’m asking this:

Why can’t we have one of those? By “those’’ I mean Bolt. I wonder if the US is ever going to get Bolt, understand him, build from him. Meanwhile, it was just a few months ago that U.S. hurdler Lashinda Demus referred to track as “a dying sport.’’ It was just Sunday night that two million people wanting tickets to Bolt’s 100-meter race were turned away.

A debonair Bolt models a suit. Photo source unknown.

Well Greg, as i said in an earlier post, to ‘get’ Bolt, you have to get Jamaica. Getting Bolt to tour the USA is one way to approach it but understanding something about the ‘never say die’ nature of Jamaican culture would help too. The videos below might help illuminate this a bit. First a beautifully produced Gleaner video of Jamaicans watching, then celebrating Jamaican victory in the men’s 100m in one of Kingston’s busiest streets:

Then a longer video movie of Usain Bolt, his life and style:


And finally there’s the third Jamaican…

Come tomorrow the world might want to know a little more about Warren Weir, the third Jamaican in the 200m at Olympics 2012. Incredibly Weir too is coached by Glenn Mills. As I write all three have cruised into the 200 m finals. The following video is a good introduction not only to Weir but also virtually the entire Jamaican team, Usain and all, getting ready for the Opening Ceremony…didn’t spot Yohan Blake…but a great peek behind the scenes at the Jamaican camp at Olympic Village. Check it out and #TeamUSA, take notes…

PS: If the copyright holders of any of the photos above identify themselves I will immediately credit them where necessary.

That Jamaica 50 song…

The Jamaican 50 song fiasco and the role of social media in holding the relevant authorities accountable…

Las May, The Daily Gleaner, June 20, 2012

Once upon a time the Jamaican Government commissioned senior producer and songwriter  Mikie Bennett to write a song to celebrate the nation’s 50th year of independence which will occur on August 6 this year. The song, Find the flag in your heart and wave it,  was duly written and produced with as many Jamaican celebrity voices as Mikie could get into his studio. If the country had to pay for the song it would have run into millions so Bennett and all those involved decided to donate the song to the nation.

In October 2011 the song was officially launched as the theme song of the Jamaica 50 celebrations slated for 2012. On December 29, 2011 after general elections, there was a change of government: the new PNP government it seemed had no intention of continuing with the schedule of events put together by the Jamaica 50 planning committee and Mikie Bennett’s song was one of the casualties.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer, June 21, 2012

Journalist and blogger Dionne Jackson Miller, covered this flipflop on her blog:

So even our music has fallen victim to that agent of change – the election. Some months ago, I was perplexed to see people calling for Eric Donaldson’s “Land of my Birth” to be made the official Jamaica 50 song. What the hell?I thought. We already HAVE a Jamaica 50 song! Remember? The song, “Find the Flag” was produced by the respected veteran Mikey Bennett and officially presented to the country.
Let me reiterate that. The song was officially and publicly presented to the country last October. If you don’t believe me, or never heard about it, read this story by Mel Cooke in the Jamaica Gleaner.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111204/ent/ent7.html
Reporter’s Guide to Jamaica 50 sent out by the Culture Ministry in December stated that:
“The Jamaica 50 song ‘Fly (sic)  the Flag in Your Heart’, written by Michael Bennett, captures Jamaica’s journey of challenges and triumphs.”
So I posted to that effect, saying that we have a Jamaica 50 song.
Except… silly me. There was an election. For months we heard nothing of Find the Flag  – the official Jamaica 50 song – until another story in the Observer told us the song had been shelved.

You can read more here.

On June 15, 2012, the current government suddenly released a new song, On a Mission,  announcing at its launch that THIS was now the official Jamaica 50 song. Starring prominent singer Shaggy and others the song’s driving technobeat whipped up a wave of resentment on Twitter with many expressing disapproval and disappointment that such an ‘un-Jamaican’, Europop sounding song could represent Jamaica in its 50th year of independence.

Initially Robert Bryan, director of the Jamaica 50 committee and young Lisa Hanna, Minister of Culture airily dismissed these concerns, claiming that they had not designated On a Mission the official Jamaica 50 song and that there was therefore no controversy involved.

Since there was considerable evidence to the contrary what with the public launch in a prominent venue that had just taken place (see photograph below) and the official CD of the song that was distributed. the chorus of disapproval kept growing until it could no longer be ignored.

Closeup of invite to the launch of second Jamaica 50 song posted on Facebook
Suddenly yesterday a penitent Robert Bryan appeared on radio claiming in a shaken voice that he and the Minister had been ‘blindsided’ by Shaggy’s company and producer Sharon Bourke who had without any authorization launched ‘Mission’ as the official song etc etc. As one tweeter wryly noted:

Robert Bryan jus threw Shaggy, Sharon Burke and Solid Agency under the bus on Nationwide Radio! #JA50!

For details I refer you once again to Dionne Jackson Miller’s blogpost Lessons from the Jamaica 50 Song Fiasco where she details the latest series of missteps by the political authorities.

Again on Facebook and Twitter arguments and criticism raged about the controversy, proving more than anything else that in its 50th year of independence Jamaican politics has not reached the critical level of maturity required at this stage. Instead of admitting at the outset that they  had handled the whole affair  poorly and apologizing to the nation  Robert Bryan and Minister Hanna tried to brazen it out with the usual political chicanery which assumes the people they act on behalf of are dunces. They are now left with egg on their faces and Minister Hanna has suffered a damning blow to her credibility she could easily have avoided.

I reproduce below a Facebook conversation on the subject with names carefully concealed to avoid any unpleasant repercussions  for the individuals concerned.  It would behoove the political class to remember that you are being judged, and judged harshly by sane and intelligent people. Its the twenty first century and you can no longer rely on a docile, feckless media to avert their eyes from your shenanigans. Please find the flags in your hearts and wave them, the national flag, not the party ones.

Finally, thank god for social media.

BB: the Secretariat says, it does not intend to, nor did it choose, select or designate an official or national Jamaica 50 song. Why was the event called “launch of the official Jamaica 50 Song?

    • GS:  Repeat after me: “Pathologically Mendacious”. Thank you.

    • DK: bareface liars…..smh

    • FS: A lie dem lie, danny Buchanan must be turning in his grave to his his prophesy now taking root in his party

    • VS: If we count the lies told in the flag fiasco and in this “launch” of the song for Jamaica 50, pathologically mendacious is too generous. However note, the lies have been flowing in patriotic issues…..signs of the times!!!

    • AV: thanks for the reminder GS!

    • MW: This is politics at its best. If you listen the song carefully it mentions Lisa Hanna and HPSM in glowing terms. It must be a PNP party song.

    • PR: I’m putting it to you that you’re Pathologically Mendacious…lol

For more on this sorry affair please watch the news item here: