The Opening Ceremony of the Games of the Twenty-Ninth Olympiad did ‘sell off’, as we say in Jamaica! However for someone like me who claims to be on ‘Olympic Watch’ it is downright unacceptable that nothing was said earlier about the Games here on the eve of the spectacular event in the appropriately named Bird’s Nest on Friday morning (Jamaica time!). Or, even afterwards when all the newspapers gushed about how awesome the Chinese display was to the world! Even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) got caught up in the euphoria, despite its constant criticisms of the award of the Games to China and the record of human rights in that country.
Notwithstanding the politics which surrounds the Chinese Games, however, something special is happening in Beijing. Way beyond the fanfare of Friday’s awesome display, these Olympics promise to yeild a record number of medals for Jamaica. More on that later.
Of course, there are reports of the lengthy delays in terms of the waiting period for athletes before they were allowed to enter the Bird’s Nest on Friday evening for the Opening Ceremony, as well as some fatal incidents, including the stabbing of an American. Then, there is the dubious distinction of star fated nine year old Lin Miaoke, who ‘sang’ “Ode to the Motherland”, on Friday. It has now been learned that the ‘cute’ little girl, actually, lip synched her way into the hearts of millions. Why? Because her predecessor, the actual singer, seven year old Yang Peiyi was declared not cute enough though her voice was said to ‘the most beautiful’!
Fast forward to Jamaican concerns. Gleaner reports contend that, Asafa Powell, former World Record Holder in the Men’s One Hundred Metres, is ‘talking tough’. Powell is frustrated with the numbers of doping tests to which he and some of his teammates have been subjected since arriving in Beijing. In Powell’s case, the number comes up to four. According to him, he and the other Jamaican athletes will be weak by the time the Track and Field component kicks off this Friday. All of Jamaica commiserates with Mr. Powell’s anxieties.
However, Dr. Paul Wright is chalking up Powell’s concerns to frustrations that the Jamaicans are ‘being targeted’. In his view, there is no likelihood of Powell and the other athletes who have been tested so far being weakened by the blood tests. He was speaking in a Gleaner report today.
Dr. Herb Elliot, a Jamaican member of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) Anti-Doping Committee argues also, that these are part of efforts to ensure a drug-free Olympics. According to him, Jamaica is one of the high profile athletic teams at the Games. This, in part, accounts for the high numbers of tests done on the Jamaican athletes.
Elsewhere, Stephen Francis, head coach of the local sprint camp Maximum Velocity and Power (MVP) who also has athletes participating in the Jamaican training camp, is asking back for his media accreditation. This after he refused to accept it a week ago. Francis’ accreditation allows him to gain access to his athletes while they are in training, though not to the Athletes Village.
Though not likely, Coach Francis’ very rash decisions may impact Jamaica’s ‘Olympic Dreams’ of gold in the relays. A week ago, Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Michael Frater were named as signatories to a letter from the MVP camp, asking that these athletes be included in relay practice under very specific instructions. This was perceived to be part of a boycott of sorts by the MVP athletes, whose coach it is said also has long standing grouses with the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA).
Today, however, Francis has made an about turn…a case of Olympic madness taken too far? Perhaps? Not sure!
What is certain, however, is that on Monday evening I received an SMA text message from a former schoolmate that one of her former classmates, who will also be participating in the Women’s 3000m Steeple Chase event in Beijing, had sent her pictures from China. I was so excited I literally chased my other friend off the phone in order to receive them! They are at the top of the page, fo course!…Right out of the horse’s mouth or more appropriately, directly from the Athlete’s Village in Beijing, China.
Most of the athletes in these pictures as well as the seated official, Bertland Cameron, former World Champion and National Record Holder in the Men’s 400m, are all past students of my much loved alma mater, St. Jago High School.
In fact, Delloreen Ennis-London, who is down to compete in the Women’s 100m Hurdles is also a classmate of mine. We sat in the same room for three consecutive years (third to fifth form)! Then, there is Kenia Sinclair, who will run in the Women’s 800m. Both she and her twin sister Kenya, herself a high school athlete, are former students of mine; that is, while I was a Prefect in Sixth Form. Ms Sinclair was also the classmate of one of my colleagues in my office at work! I am surrounded! I know! I will be cheering each and every one of them on, especially as they all seem likely to take home a medal in their respective events.
My sentimental favourites are, without question, Veronica Campbell-Brown, the Defending Champion in the Women’s 200m and Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, the current and former World Record Holders in the Men’s 100m, respectively.
Other St. Jago notables in the team are: Kerron Stewart in the Women’s 100m; Melaine Walker in the Women’s 400m and, Marvin Anderson in the Men’s 400m Relays. All things being equal, the feelings are that the latter event will produce a World Record for the Jamaicans when Bolt and Powell take to the track! Kudos to all Jamaican athletes in their eagerly anticipated golden quest at the Olympics! Whatever the outcome we will all be proud of them!
PS: Fans of Veronica Campbell-Brown will be disappointed to learn that she will not run in the Women’s 100m in Beijing, despite her strong showing in the event, post National Trials where she finished fourth. JAAA’s rules indicate that she will not be considered.
PPS: Congratulations to Michael Phelps and his heroics in the pool! If ever there was a link between man and fish, it would have to be him! LOL!
PPPS: The Grand Gala was, from what I hear, very grand! I slept through most of it, sadly. I was not especially drawn to some of the early performances of the show on TV. However, some of the numbers were very energetic and well executed. Bi-ups to L’Antoinette Stines, one of the choreographers and former classmate of mine also (at university…name dropping!), who’s use of the mokojumbie dancers – the performers on stilts, really gave a welcomed lift to the programme. Large up to Nexus also! Excellent singing, indeed!
…Till next time! Walk good!