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EDITORIAL - Jamaica's coming of age in sports
published: Thursday | August 21, 2008

THE CHINESE provided the venue, the environment and many glowing performances, but it is the Jamaicans who have really made the Beijing Olympics come alive.

For, no matter whatever else happens at these games, no one will leave as indelible an imprint on the games as Usain Bolt, notwithstanding the efforts of Michael Phelps.

It is hardly a point of debate that in global athletics, the sprint events have great 'sex appeal', particularly the 100 and 200 metres race for men. In Beijing, Usain Bolt, in these races, set new standards of achievement.

Six days ago, he sliced three-hundredths of a second from his own world record to win the Olympic gold in the event in 9.69 seconds. And he made it all seem so simple, as though he was not trying, going into cruise phase about 20 metres from the finish, slapping his chest in triumph.

Then yesterday, he did what most people did not expect. He was expected to win, but not demolish Michael Johnson's 12-year record for the 200 metres of 19.32 seconds, with a run of 19.30 seconds. That was to come later, perhaps next season, was the thinking of the pundits.

Youthful playfulness

That Usain Bolt won underlined his supreme talent. The manner of his performance, in the context of the Beijing Games, is just as important. He has brought a certain joie de vivre to Beijing, a youthful playfulness that celebrates the Olympic spirit.

This, after all, is mostly about the gathering of the youth of the world where, between the intensity of competition, Bolt's jig of Jamaican street dances and effervescent clowning were entirely in place.

If Usain Bolt symbolises all that China could have hoped for from these games, the performance of the Jamaicans generally deepened that experience. Hosting these games is partly about China's coming out - as a global leader and a country of influence and power. Beijing has, up to now, put on a fine show, with very much help from the Jamaicans. There was Jamaica's sweep of the three medals in the women's 100 metres; Shericka Williams' silver in the women's 400 metres, and Melaine Walker's gold, in Olympic record time in the 400 metres hurdles; and the promise of more to come.

Absolute dominance

These performances are a coming of age, of sorts, for Jamaica, too. Jamaica has long been a global power in track, achieving far more, on a per capita basis, than other countries in the Olympics and other games. In Beijing, this has been translated into absolute dominance.

By their heroics, in the face of the might of the United States, Usain Bolt and company have lifted what might have been a very, very good Olympics into a games of excellence - which we are sure the Chinese fully recognise.

Perhaps in the context of what has happened, the Chinese will see the worth, as we suggested yesterday, of partnering with Jamaica in the development of sport facilities and education and training institutions here, at which their athletes, too, could access the benefits of Jamaican expertise.

Our own government must be aggressive, too, in leveraging the experience of Beijing and in bringing to Jamaica's communities the values that make for excellence in athletics and in life. We must make Usain Bolt et al real and whole and involved, sharing their formulas for success - in classrooms, in community centres - everywhere.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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