I wonder if our youth realize just how much we’ve achieved in Athletics.

Between 1952 and 1976, I didn’t hear the Jamaica national anthem at any Olympic Games.  When, in 1976, Donald “DQ” Quarrie forced the anthem’s playing in Montreal, Jamaica’s emotional cup ran over.  We’d been resigned to never hearing it outside our shores again.  We’d produce brilliant athletes but they weren’t able to break through the athletic glass ceiling.  In those 24 years, George Kerr (1960) won a bronze medal for the British West Indies Federation (the relay team also won bronze); Lennox Miller (1968) won a silver for Jamaica (the relay team ran a world beating semi-final but could only finish 4th in the final); and (1972) we managed a single bronze (Miller again). Two medals in 24 years (three if you count Kerr’s) before DQ smashed through the ceiling.

Since the World Championships began in 1983, we’ve done better there but, after DQ, it was another 20 years before Jamaica’s National Anthem was played at an Olympic Games.  In 1996, 400m hurdler Deon Hemmings won hearts and minds by winning gold but also with her emotional response to the anthem.  In between, Jamaica won 4 World Championship golds and so our anthem was played on the international stage for Bert Cameron; Merlene Ottey (twice); and the women’s 4 × 100 relay team (Dahlia Duhaney, Juliet Cuthbert, Beverly McDonald and Merlene Ottey).

On Sunday, August 19, I heard the National Anthem played for three consecutive medal ceremonies at the World Championships.  I wonder how often this has happened for any nation.  At that moment, I was able to forget the dark cloud over our performances cast by pre-Championships positives and the circus that is JADCO’s dope testing procedures.  I was unconditionally proud to be Jamaican. 

We’ve been told to be proud to be Jamaican because one Jamaican rose from the working class to Jamaica House.  But we should be more proud of national achievement than personal triumph.    It’s when Jamaicans defeat the world and force the repeated listening to Jamaica’s national anthem that we’re proud to be Jamaican.  That’s achievement.

Successive Governments’ achievement has made Jamaica’s name in the foreign press synonymous with corruption, violence, drugs, and scams. 

                   “Dey trying their bes’ to stop our progress                                                          with bad propaganda high in de foreign press.                                              Bad t’ings are blown out proportion                                                   and spread all around.                                                                                                                     But de good t’ings of de Island                                                                              dey will never mention….

We’ve presented the world with achievement before.  Scholars, scientists and activists like Rex Nettleford; Cicely Williams; or St William Grant whilst enjoying widespread personal influence, haven’t compelled foreign journalists to address Jamaica with anything like the reverence now coming from sports journalists everywhere.

Our rich musical history, replete with world renown geniuses like Marley, Tosh, (Bob) Andy, Alphanso, Drummond and Mittoo hasn’t protected Jamaicans from continuous harassment at international airports and adverse profiling in cities abroad.

                   “Like our scholars have sit and passed every test.                                              There’s nothing ’bout dat in de foreign press.                                     You know our music is rated amongst de bes’.                                              There’s nothing ’bout that in de foreign press.                                                    But, if a man steal a mango                                                                               or breeze blow up a woman’s dress,                                                                   bet yu life it making headlines in de foreign press

Our athletes alone ensure that, whenever the foreign sporting press mentions Jamaica, it’s with excessive superlatives extolling the virtue of this tiny Island of approximately 3 million people who, in this World Championships, won as many Gold medals as the U.S.A., population 314 million. Immediately after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beijing hosted the World Youth Mind Games Olympics to which Jamaica sent a team of young bridge players.  As these unknowns landed in Beijing and were announced as Jamaicans, they were treated like royalty by Chinese authorities.

Kenneth Lara (stage name Lord Laro), born 1940 in Claxton Bay, Trinidad, was singing before he was 12; then entered the calypso tent arena; and by 1961 joined the regiment and became known as “Singing Soldier.” 

His battalion was sent to Jamaica for training where he met Norma, a lovely Jamaican girl, who he married before returning to Trinidad to become a top calypsonian.  He revisited Jamaica on invitation to perform at MoBay’s Yellow Bird club; became an instant success on the north coast circuit; and settled with Norma in MoBay. In 1975, while performing at Kingston’s Ferry Inn, Lord Laro wrote and recorded Foreign Press, an instant hit that stayed on the Jamaican charts for several months.

Peace and Love


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