Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Businesses enjoy bounty as thousands flock to Half-Way Tree to watch the races
The excellent performance of Jamaica's stars at the London Olympics is translating into gold for several business operators in Half-Way Tree in St Andrew.
Jamaican memorabilia, food and snacks are all in heavy demand as the crowd gathers in Half-Way Tree to view races, and it reaches fever pitch whenever Usain Bolt touches the track.
Even operators of public passenger vehicles see an increase in demand once the athletes in the black, green and gold get going.
"When the stars run, here is like a stadium after the race finish. Sales have been great," said Kamoy Simpson, supervisor at the Burger King outlet in Half-Way Tree.
It was a similar sentiment at the Mother's outlet in the Springs Plaza.
"Before, during and after the races, they want liquid. They want cran water, soup, and any type of fluid. Luckily for us, we never run out of supply," Sheryl Fowler, supervisor at Mother's, told The Sunday Gleaner.
Street-side vendors have also struck gold selling their goods.
"Since the athletics start, I don't have hand to sell flags, arm bands and banana chips," said Hakeem Watson, who is from Old Harbour, St Catherine, but journeys to Half-Way Tree to sell his goods.
"I was here by accident four years ago. I remember how much money I used to buy something that say Jamaica. So this time, I say, I want to sell things that people want," he explained.
His brother Kenton was also there selling water, juices and phone cards, as well as flags.
Both would later become lost in the thousands of persons who were eagerly awaiting the men's 200 metres finals last Thursday in the place where uptown Kingston meets downtown Kingston.
The Beijing Olympics created and defined the space in 2008 and the World Championships in 2009 and 2011 in Berlin, Germany, and Daegu, South Korea, immortalised it.
Lucky or unlucky, one woman found herself in the same spot for the 29th and 30th Olympiads.
"I got stranded here during the China (Beijing) Olympics because I was doing business here. Four years later, I am stranded again. But, a tell you, watching the games here is better than home," Paulette Allen-Curtley told The Sunday Gleaner.
Allen-Curtley accompanied her husband to the nearby Jamaica National Building Society to do business and spent $7,000 in un-budgeted expenses to purchase Jamaican memorabilia.
"The crowd just started to swell right there," she said, pointing to the spot where Constant Spring Road meets South Odeon Avenue and Suthermere Road.
Her purchases include knitted scarves, T-shirts, bracelets with the Jamaican flag, a belt, and several Jamaican flags.
Moments later, she, too, was swallowed up into the thousands who, as if on cue, moved to the spot and fixed their eyes on two massive television screens.
Traffic had earlier come to a stop although the lights were on green.
"A likkle London wi deh. A likkle London dis," said a man decked in Jamaica 50 sunglasses. He lifted his shirt and danced, jumped, and doubled over, before letting out a "whoooo!"
"Mi sell banana chips like wow. When de people dem get excited, dem just buy anything dem see mark Jamaica," he said, selling some more chips and bag juice.
Tristan Allen and his mother Marjorie ran from the passport office, which is five to 10 minutes' walk away from the celebration site.
"When mi modda get her passport, we just start run to come down here," the youngster, who is 10-years-old said, sucking vigorously on the bag juice in his hand.
Caught in the mood
His mother was caught up with a group of others who mobbed a man with a huge box of memorabilia.
Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses are also in high demand after the races, said supervisor Constantine Douglas.
"Before the races, buses leave practically empty, although persons are there who need the buses. But nobody is leaving at that time. When the race ends, there is a bombardment as passengers want buses to leave immediately," said Douglas.
"Bolt chips wi seh,'' a woman shouted as she held a big bag, with khaki-coloured materials just purchased.
She started singing Super Cat's 1980's hit song Dem Nuh Worry We, as thousands poured into the streets for the 200m final last Thursday.
Shouts of 'Bolt', 'Bolt' filled the afternoon sky before the race, with some mention of Yohan Blake, Bolt's training partner.
Most persons expected gold and silver, but others believed it would be a clean sweep.
The athletes gave the track-frenzied fans gold, silver and bronze, as Warren Weir joined his more illustrious colleagues to complete the Jamaican clean sweep.
It was much of the same yesterday for the finals of the women's 4x400m and the men's 4x100m relays as the curtains came down on Jamaica's participation in the London Games.
But already, plans have started for Brazil 2016 when Half-Way Tree will again become the out-door theatre of the Corporate Area.