Dennie Quill, Columnist
T-shirts and other memorabilia were flying off the shelves when I visited a popular outlet in Kingston last weekend. Austerity forgotten, customers, including children and their grannies, were snapping up a variety of items steeped in the Jamaican colours of black, green and gold. It didn't matter that many of these were made in China. Attractive bracelets, earrings, caps and other items were finding favour with customers and kept the cash registers ticking over.
From observations, some of the customers were visitors, but the majority of those buying assorted merchandise were local residents. It was obvious that while some were on their way out to vacation with family and friends overseas, the majority just wanted to ensure that they had something representative of Jamaica during this time of celebration.
And as we move closer to August 6, the hype surrounding Independence is gaining momentum and the excitement is palpable: corporate Jamaica is putting on her national dress in dramatic and attractive ways, motorists are flying the flag, and homeowners are mounting imaginative displays of the black, green and gold.
The national colours have also been making an impact on the world stage. After the Olympic opening ceremony, Jamaica received high marks for its team dress. Here is how the Telegraph style editor rated the Jamaican Olympic fashion: artistic merit 9.5, and execution, a perfect 10. The editor said: "Frankly, Usain Bolt could make anything look cool, but his military-inspired Puma jacket just floored the opposition." That is a great endorsement, even though many at home had reacted negatively to the Cedella Marley design as Facebook users stirred the stew of controversy.
The only time I can recall this outpouring of nationalism in 50 years was when the Reggae Boyz became the first English-speaking Caribbean team to qualify for the World Cup in Germany in 1998. And now Jamaica 50 is coinciding with the Olympics.
OLYMPIC FEVER - BUT WHAT NEXT?
If the question were asked today, what makes Jamaica a great nation? I would hazard a guess that many people would respond, "Our athletes." What does that say about Jamaica? The fact is there are those who have dismissed the Independence celebrations, saying they have no reason to celebrate. However, even the sceptics have caught the Olympic fever. Is it then that the buzz is not so much around Independence but the Olympics? Is the nation bathing in the anticipated glory of its star athletes?
Indeed, our athletes have continued to outperform more rich and powerful nations and have inspired other small nations to be the best they can be. How many countries would like to taste the feeling of triumph in gaining a gold medal at the Olympics? Yet Jamaica has done it over and over again.
Many of us cannot make it to London but we will be glued to our television sets and we can still participate in the Olympic experience by following on Facebook and Twitter. For the next fortnight or so, we can bask in patriotic pride and forget about our many problems.
Maybe this period will lead to an introspective look into why our economic performance has continued to be anaemic and why we have not found the formula to lift more of our people out of poverty and deprivation.
Perhaps we can hope for unity after these celebrations. Let us harness the excitement and positive vibrations from these Games and ponder ways in which we can make a fresh start to create a just and more equitable society.
Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.