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‘We could never pay you’ - Holness thanks athletes for building Brand Jamaica

Published:Monday | October 17, 2016 | 10:23 AMShayne Fairman
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) makes a presentation to sprint legend Usain Bolt, while Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange looks on during a celebration for the nation's athletes who participated at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last summer. The function was held at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday night.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that the Government intends to develop a concept to represent the lasting legacy of Jamaica's sporting heroes.

He was speaking while saluting the Rio 2016 Olympians and Paralympians during Saturday night’s symbolic function in in their honour.

The event, which was held at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday night, was part of a three-day Heroes’ weekend celebration organised by the Ministry of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport.

The colourful and entertaining evening saw a modest, but very vocal crowd in attendance.

“Tonight belongs to the athletes. They made us gather as one people, with one mission in Half-Way Tree, as one people. They kept you on the edge of your couch, willing them on, thousands of miles away through your television, for them to win,” the prime minister said in his remarks.

“You shared in the thrill of their victory. And yes, we were sad when they didn’t win, but we willed them on anyway because their victory is our victory,” added Holness to loud applause.

“So don’t ask what we are giving to our athletes, which should never be questioned, because my answer is we haven’t done enough.

SYMBOLIC

“What we are doing here is just symbolic to show that we care about you, our athletes, because you bring pride to our nation. You make Jamaica’s name fly high in the world, and we could never pay you for what you have done in building Brand Jamaica,” the Prime Minister stressed.

“So on behalf of a grateful nation, on behalf of all Jamaican people here and in the diaspora I stand here on this stage to say ‘thank you’.”

He added: “I have directed the minister of sport, minister of tourism to develop a concept and come to the nation because the nation has to have participation in anything that we do to represent the legacy of our athletes.”

There was a sizeable delegation of athletes in attendance, from sprint legend Usain Bolt, to Racers clubmate Yohan Blake, then Asafa Powell, who received the biggest cheers on the men side.

On the female side, sprint superstars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson, and Veronica Campbell-Brown were given voracious cheers of approval.

Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, whose ministry hosted the show, gave tributes to the Olympians, Paralympians, and national chess team, which also competed in Europe during the summer at the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.

FORERUNNERS

Drawing on the popular Jamaican phrase ‘wi likkle but wi tallawah,’ Grange said, “Your success over the years continues to excite and astound the world. I must take this opportunity to once more acknowledge the forerunners who set the stage and built the foundation for those of you who are with us today.

“The achievement of our athletes at the Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games is no small feat, and this in spite of our size and our population and limited financial resources,” Grange observed.

Over 11,000 athletes competed at the Rio Games, with Jamaica’s 57 athletes finishing 16th of 209 countries and third in track and field behind the United States and Kenya.

There were 36 first-time athletes on the team, which won six gold, three silver, and two bronze medals. Most of the nation’s representatives were given special awards.

On behalf of Jamaica Olympic Association, Vishwanath Tolan, who served as chef de mission, commended “the performance of all the athletes who have sacrificed their time, money and efforts”, while thanking their coaches and officials.

Shot putter Odayne Richards, who was co-captain of the Rio team, delivered the vote of thanks.

“On behalf of the Olympic team, Olympians, I would like to say thank you. We really appreciate it and we look to 2017 for more exploits,” said Richards.