The euphoria of Jamaica’s accomplishments has widened tremendously with many non-Jamaicans including American, earnestly applauding Bolt’s and Jamaica’s achievements. And it’s not just about poking the American track machine in the eye. Many people I think are just grateful when the underdog (a reflection of themselves) succeeds.
Many American reporters vigorously came to Usain Bolt’s defense when he was attacked by IOC chief Jacques ‘Jackass Rogue’ Rogge. More on that in a mo.
This is definitely Jamaica’s greatest athletic success, even more tasty because most of the top athletes never passed through the American college system, giving American commentators little opportunity to claim some kind of paternity.
Let’s take it as a given that I also, am wallowing in Jamaica’s glory, so forgive me for not using this opportunity to rehash the now worn stories that will dominate most of Jamaica’s minds for some time. Nothing I can recount can surpass what has been seen, read about and talked about.
But there are two issues I’d like to address.
For many years, and in several articles, I have been arguing that successive Jamaican governments and their private and civil sector partners, have been failing Jamaica through an unwillingness to free themselves and the country from mental slavery.
We have been tilling the same economic grounds for years, getting nowhere, when one of our routes to recovery lies right there before us… the natural talents of our people.
Every major holiday, someone is bound to come up with a line espousing that ‘the youths are our future’, and ‘the people are our most valuable resource’. So-so talk. Our youth continue to languish in crime, high unemployment, a lack of opportunities, poor schooling, blah blah blah.
While they grow desperate, we keep putting emphasis on being a service economy (tourism and call centres), a shop-keeping economy (buying and selling internally) or a manufacturing economy focusing mainly on providing brassieres and panties for the American market. These pillars have produced a solution.
Yet, at what do we naturally excel? Sports, music, arts and growing things (ok, the latter includes ganja too). The point is that we could build industries around our natural talents that would be an automatic magnet for the youth.
Coming out of these Olympics, could have been by-products like books, magazines, films, radio programmes which would find an eager audience worldwide. Foreign coaches are asking, “Is it because of the food?”… an ideal opportunity for someone to rush into print, a cookbook of the athletes favourite fare.
It’s a certainty that some of our coaches will be in demand, but what if the GC Foster Academy was running as it was intended, almost 30 years ago? What if we had several institutions dedicated to developing our sports talent? Wouldn’t this take many of the youth off the streets? Wouldn’t this develop prowess beyond shooting at each other or the police, ducking bullets and running for safety? Ok, some of that is said with my twisted humour, but you get the point.
These academies would eventually be sought by other Caribbean nations primarily, the same way the academic elite of the Caribbean head to the University of the West Indies. The focus in this case would be on athletic development, sports medicine, nutrition, marketing, production, personal development.
The academies would form the nucleus for our major sports… athletics, cricket, football, netball, but we would venture into many other programmes that we have talent in but never had the impetus to develop… tennis, table tennis, badminton, swimming, field hockey, basketball, raquetball, even gymnastics.
Can the country earn money from this? Of course, even if we don’t count possible earnings from spin-offs as mentioned before, like publishing.
The Dominican Republic has practically made an industry out of supplying American baseball with talent. Beijing needs not be a nine-day wonder as was our Reggae Boyz after France, if we lay the foundation for growth and development.
Repeat same for the arts, especially as the Edna Manley School for the Arts is already there. Unfortunately the last time I looked, that institution had become a way station for the youth of the gentry while the poorer more talented kids languished… drawing knives instead of pictures, shooting guns instead of cameras. But the basic idea is there.
And in regards to music, we already know how demanded that is worldwide. If we could just tweak it for a national purpose. The youth gravitate to reggae and dancehall because there is little earning for them in the more traditional forms like mento. But mento bands are in huge demand worldwide, and a mento band could be engaged the entire year without returning home.
As for agriculture, many rural youth would stay in their communities if they could see a viable living from farming. It’s foolish to think that they only want to ‘come to town and tun wutless’. It is the lack of opportunities that starts the deadly migration.
Could success happen overnight? No. But therein lies our perennial problem. Our leaders look only for short-term success and are unwilling to look to the long hard road, because its not in their political interest.
We can dig ourselves deeper. The Olympic team has shown us a way to dig ourselves out.
I’m incensed that the Olympic chief, after all the negatives, the politicking and the corruption, could only find his tongue to abuse Usain Bolt. I’m disappointed that many Jamaicans agree with ‘the rogue’, that Bolt was ‘showboating’. I can only ask, “How did you come to that conclusion?”.
Did ‘Rogue’ or anyone ask Bolt if he was? Is there a pattern of arrogance in Bolt’s history?
Let’s look at the tape again and check this scenario. Usain Bolt never knew how fast he was running, never knew he was running at below 9.6 pace. He knew that his challenge should have come from the inside, particularly his fellow countryman and 2nd fastest man in the world, Asafa Powell.
Bolt looked and no one was there. Incredible, even to him. The distance between Bolt and the field was the largest in recent years in a race with a recent history of blanket finishes.
Could Bolt have been merely astonished, asking ‘Where is everybody?’. Has he ever used that gesture before? Is that a gesture you plan for a race as short and with an expected tight finish as the 100m?
‘Rogue’ claim to be speaking on behalf of Bolt’s competitors, but did he ask them if they felt disrespected? Would Bolt be dissing his own countrymen? American Shawn Crawford said he didn’t feel that way at all.
The Jamaican Olympic Association should demand an apology from Rogge in particular and the IOC in general… an apology to Bolt, to the Jamaican team and to the nation.
But then again, worldwide condemnation of Rogge and the performance of the team have already vindicated Usain Bolt and Jamaica, and embarrassed the naysayers.