Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What a day.

Blogging events in real time has been my new venture of the past few weeks, and during my latest sojourn to Jamaica it has been wonderful sport.

I have just travelled to the capital, Kingston, after watching the second Lightning strike, for 200 metres gold and new world record--taking the formidable Michael Johnson's record set in Atlanta in 1996. Some of my friends will remember that I said last night that it would fall today.Bolt now becomes the first man to break both world records in the process of becoming Olympic champion. By the way, the last man to hold both records at the same time was also a Jamaican, Don Quarrie, in 1975.

The world was having a discussion about whether Usain should have run through the 100 metres. The youth said last night that he had no time to think about time in the 100, but would think about it in the 200--and you see what you get. The man-child runs the full race and has the lunge at the tape with his nearest rival so far out of the picture that it was like a man racing boys, except it was the man-child winning. So, detractors, move on, please. This is a rare and extraordinary talent that has been that way for the best part of the past 6 years, breaking records and winning titles in his favour 200 metres. He runs and has fun. Strange? It may not last, but love it while you can.

Spare a thought for the drama of the "also rans". Wallace Spearmon, a good buddy of Bolt's (who was given some post race dancing lessons by the youth), came in third with19.85 but was disqualified for running out of his lane. Churnady Martina came second in what he thought was a new national record of 19.82, and a first Olympic medal for Netherlands Antilles, but was also disqualified after the US protested. So, US runners Shawn Crawford (defending champion, and running 19.96) and Walter Dix (19.98). Why don't I like that US protest, where they lose one medal but gain two? Bway, some people gravalicious.

In Jamaica, we love to make noise in celebration, so pot covers were being banged in sleepy Mandeville, in the countryside. I went to the bank ATM and yelled "Time to gi' we free money!" Everyone was looking for someone to hug. Cars were flashing headlights. Security guards were waving rifles--not quite like a gun with a rose in it, but a sign. Some Jamaican media commentators in Toronto for tonight's World Cup match between Jamaica and Canada, told of how they were nearly ejected from their hotel as they banged on the walls. New songs are already being aired, that hail the exploits of the new Olympic champions. Office workers in Kingston jumped in the street and some of them are now too hoarse to talk. Not enough pre-Olympic training, and next time the nation has to prepare itself well for all the celebrating.

I had to hurry out after the Bolt struck, as I had a flight to catch. But a call soon came in to tell me that "We get anotha' gold an' anotha record!" This time, Melaine Walker, taking the women's 400 metres and setting a new Olympic record, and for her a new personal best. Another product of a Kingston "garrison" community. I wait to see if our three girls in the 200 metres can sweep again.

I called my little daughter, who is spending summer with grandma in Nassau and asked her if she had seen the runners. "Yes," she told me, "And I yelled, 'Me is a Jamaican!'" Go girl! Make me proud. Her grandma was sad that this time the Bahamians seem to be getting little or nothing.

Everything changes once you are a champion. Now Bolt is a prized asset and his sponsors are getting more than could have been expected. Puma, the footwear company that sponsored Usain, got minutes of free ads after the shoe Bolt used was flashed lovingly in front of camera after the 100 metres, and sales went up by about 2 million over the weekend. What price now to get a double Olympic gold medallist and world record holder to run at a meet? Not wanting to seem mercenary may be hard. Already, the public is talking about how “we all go get a piece o’ de foreign exchange de yout go bring…” Nike sponsored Asafa and are still waiting. Adidas sponsored Tyson Gay--better luck next time. Americans are rightly worried about jobs going abroad and we see another area where globalization is helping developing countries.

Further down the sports food chain many budding athletes are no where near getting more than personal pride. My cousin, a doctor, and alumni of Manchester High School, has been helping them with equipment: nicely tapping friends and associates to “offer” some help—boots, uniforms, services. This kind of support is needed for a long while because there are few structures that support even the very good to get to be better.

Will the feel good factors last? Already, we can see how we get shown up. Politicians are expected to find money to repair roads in the districts from which the Olympic stars come, not least to have a decent road for their arrival. But some areas are pointing out that they don’t even have piped water, so soon after or before the roads that needs to be addressed. The poverty of government is also going to get its time in the spotlight. When Shelly-Ann Fraser’s mother said “Nuff good can come outta ghetto” you have to remember that nuff bad been done by no-care government and criminals. Sporting success alone cannot make up for those drawbacks.

In the end, I spent most of my day in Norman Manley airport waiting for my flight back to Bim. It was due to leave at 2pm, then was delayed till 4.45, then delayed again till 7.15, then delayed again till 8.45. I’m a season traveler so I know my rights, and at around 4.30, I said to Air Jamaica “Is whe’ me food dey?” With the J$600 (US$ 8.50—nuff money dat inna Jamaica) voucher s in hand I could lovingly embrace my sweetheart—a chicken fricassee and pumpkin rice dinner, with cola champagne. I even get to watch the World Cup qualifying football from Canada. That’s how visitors to the nation of champions can celebrate. We can be sufferers, too.

Naturally, the soft frenzy that had been evident earlier was not so apparent at the airport, especially as time wore on and I felt like Tom Hanks in “Terminal”. All eyes and hearts are waiting to see if Jamaica can sweep the women’s 200 metres, and how the relay teams will fare. Oral Tracey, a TV sports broadcaster, surely has his broom ready to show how we did the sweep.

If I never get to Barbados tonight it wont be a day that I will regret for that. It's perfect day to have been stranded in Jamaica, land that I love.

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