Money well spent; but no stat­ues

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

TRACK AND field ath­letes have been the most suc­cess­ful group of Ja­maicans in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for over 50 years.

The Olympics and, to a lesser ex­tent, the World Cham­pi­onships, have been broad­cast to an ex­pec­tant na­tion in great de­tail and has gal­vanised sup­port that tran­scends class and eco­nomic cir­cum­stance in a way that has never been seen in our fair is­land.

‘Bei­jing’ in Half-Way Tree dur­ing the 2008 Olympics re­vealed the ex­tent of the power of these men and women to af­fect, in a pos­i­tive man­ner the psy­che of a na­tion. We cel­e­brated their vic­to­ries and cheered and sup­ported them when they lost, high­light­ing in print and elec­tronic me­dia their strug­gles, in­juries and set­backs.

As a di­rect re­sult of their ex­ploits, the name JA­MAICA took on added sig­nif­i­cance and at­tracted vis­i­tors and in­vest­ments that have ben­e­fited ev­ery­one of us, no mat­ter what we feel about sports in gen­eral and ath­let­ics in par­tic­u­lar. These peo­ple are na­tional trea­sures and we owe them.

The Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted in ex­cess of J$82 mil­lion in show­ing our na­tion’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their ac­com­plish­ments. Part of this sum was al­lo­cated to those men and women who par­tic­i­pated in the Sum­mer Olympics and Par­a­lympics in Brazil.

Not only were medal­lists and fi­nal­ists re­warded, but most im­por­tantly, the non-ath­letic sup­port group was also re­warded and com­mended.

No longer will those who went to the Olympics to as­sist and give their ex­per­tise in man­ag­ing the be­hind-thescenes ac­tiv­i­ties – that have re­sulted in the gamut of emo­tions that we as a na­tion have ex­pe­ri­enced when­ever these Games are tele­vised and re­ported on – be sat­is­fied with a mea­gre per diem and ‘thanks’, but they now have cash to show that we care.

STROKE OF GE­NIUS

The de­ci­sion to jux­ta­pose these cel­e­bra­tions dur­ing Na­tional He­roes week­end was in­deed a stroke of ge­nius. The cel­e­bra­tions be­gan with a re­cep­tion hosted by Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness at Ja­maica House and this was fol­lowed by the Rio gala and awards cer­e­mony at the Na­tional In­door Sports Cen­tre on Satur­day.

The JN 5K Run/Walk – sup­ported by the Usain Bolt Foun­da­tion – and an­other re­cep­tion at the Braco Melia ho­tel in western Ja­maica al­lowed as wide a cross sec­tion of Ja­maicans to be there to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

That is why I be­lieve that the $82 mil­lion is money well spent, even though it pales against the $30 mil­lion (over three years) pledged by the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion to as­sist schools with the ex­penses sur­round­ing the health and wel­fare of chil­dren at risk dur­ing the In­terSe­condary Schools Sports As­so­ci­a­tion (ISSA)-spon­sored sport­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

In fact, there are sev­eral as­pects of life in this is­land of ours that could well do with $82 mil­lion. How­ever, let us not for­get that, as a peo­ple, we owe these men and women.

The plan to erect four stat­ues – two in 2016 and two in 2017 – com­mem­o­rat­ing Ja­maica’s top four sprint­ers in re­cent years, does not have my sup­port.

As I un­der­stand it, the ath­letes to be de­picted are Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest ath­lete; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, dou­ble Olympic gold medal­list; Asafa Pow­ell; and Veron­ica Camp­bell-Brown.

Build­ing stat­ues to hon­our and com­mem­o­rate our ath­letes has prece­dent that never recorded a mur­mur of dis­con­tent from a grate­ful na­tion. How­ever, these ath­letes, who have their like­ness recorded on a statue, had long re­tired and were in­deed wor­thy.

BANNED SUB­STANCES

With the cur­rent pol­icy of urine and blood sam­ples be­ing kept and sub­ject to retest­ing over and over again as sci­ence catches up with the re­ported use of banned sub­stances by ath­letes, erect­ing stat­ues be­fore re­tire­ment is fraught with dan­ger and ex­er­cis­ing pa­tience would in no way di­min­ish the ef­fect these stat­ues would have on our peo­ple.

The erec­tion of stat­ues by na­tions to hon­our ci­ti­zens in the past has had to be se­ri­ously re­con­sid­ered when in­for­ma­tion about the hon­ouree came to light years af­ter the statue was erected.

There will be noth­ing lost by wait­ing un­til our na­tional trea­sures have re­tired from ac­tive com­pe­ti­tion. Usain Bolt has al­ready an­nounced his planned re­tire­ment in July next year. Let us wait. H Lion FC UWI FC Ja­malco FC Ar­nett MoBay Utd Port­more FC Reno Tivoli FC Mav-Hugh W’house B Town H View 6 4 6 4 6 3 6 3 6 3 6 2 6 2 6 2 6 1 6 2 6 1 6 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 4 0 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 1 4 4 4 7 7 10 7 7 5 3 6 7 4 5 2 3 6 5 5 5 6 4 5 7 7 9 8 4 13 1 13 5 10 2 10 2 10 -1 8 -1 8 1 7 0 7 -3 6 -4 4 -6 4

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