Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
It was, in retrospect, the perfect race, coming at the historic time at which it did, and producing the wave of euphoria and sense of competence and even superiority, for a nation in the throes of its 50th Independence celebrations, by a people encumbered by the task struggling to survive in a time of international economic crisis and the attendant woes!
Dears, it was easily the most anticipated race of the just-ended Olympic Games in London - the 200-metre dash - pitting Usain Bolt against his countryman, friend and rival, Yohan Blake, and the rest of the World, which included another countryman in the personage of Warren Weir, who, up until then, was pretty much a Warren Who?, except in the eyes of Jamaican track-and-field insiders and aficionados.
Now, there was no escaping the nationalistically charged emotions surrounding and attaching themselves to this race. Indeed, for many Jamaicans, Usain Bolt's status as a legend was on the line, and many a Jamaican was conflicted by his quest for his status, and their conflicting desire to see the emergence of Yohan Blake as the country's new darling of the tracks.
Mind you, there were those who held fast to the idea that Usain Bolt was and is invincible, all things being equal. And so, in their minds, Bolt's superiority and eventual dominance was never in question. Alas, the die was cast, aided and abetted by pre-race hype and punditry, which sought to frame the debate based on opinions rather than facts of the science at hand.
And so it was that Jamaica led the world in massing in front of their televisions, to witness history in the making, or conversely, a historical upset. With every major town and village across the island, local bars and the new social hang-outs - sports bars, and the centre of Kingston, Half-Way Tree, being points of congregation for the historic race.
Well, since the start of the Olympics, particularly the track-and-field events, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has been graciously hosting a number of specially invited guests to join her at Jamaica House to view those events in which Jamaican athletes were participants. The grouping of invitees included students from various schools and institutions, constituents, leading members of the business community, the media, and others.
Well, for the 200-metre final, Jamaica House was abuzz with excitement, as the foyer of the Office of the Prime Minister was transformed into a fabulous lounge, decked in the national colours, and outfitted with an Olympic-size television, plus a number of others strategically placed, to afford guests best viewing opportunity.
With students from a number of schools streaming in, as well as a number of leading personalities joining Prime Minister Simpson Miller; Technology and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell; Education Minister Ronald Thwaites; Local Government Minister Noel Arscott; Minister of Housing Morais Guy; Minister of Labour Derrick Kellier; Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna; Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer; Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Douglas Saunders; Dr Carlton Davies; Ambassador Elinor Felix; Ambassador Burchell Whiteman; Scarlett Gillings; Businessman Steve Ashley; Dr Lorna Simmonds; Dr Deborah Hickling; Pamela Redwood; Terry Campbell; Dollis Campbell; councillor Audrey Smith; permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Oneika Miller; there were pre-race cocktails and finger foods adding to what was expected to be a relaxed air, but was one charged and made very pregnant with nervousness and energy!
And then, there we all were, under the starter's orders. The prime minister, in her dignified manner, quietly took her seat and mouthed a silent prayer, just before the start of the race, while her ministers and other guests huddled nervously.
After the prime minister finished her prayer, this here scribe enquired of her, "What were you praying for Madam Prime Minister?'
She responded: "A prayer for all our athletes, but specifically in this race, a one, two three placing would be a great blessing".
And herein lies the distinction of Prime Minister Simpson Miller, as indeed, many of those gathered were in one accord that Jamaica was expected to take the first and second places at the end of the race. Very few others had even mentioned and/or expected Warren Weir to medal, but Prime Minister Simpson Miller later shared that, after watching Weir go through the rounds, he convinced her that he was more than capable of completing the Jamaican trifecta.
Well my darlings, you all could have heard a pin drop for the actual start of the race, and when the starter's pistol went off, there was a sigh of relief that indeed, none of the Jamaican athletes had false started, so all were in for a chance to make it to the podium.
But luvs, talk about pressure!
Oh for some mint juleps!
Dears, the Angel of Victory walked through the foyer of Jamaica House for the first 50 or so metres of the race, and it was all deathly quiet, as if those gathered were afraid to breathe, in that their breathing would disturb the athletes. But luvs, as Sprint King Usain Bolt stamped his class on the field, and the would-be upstart Yohan Blake settled into his role as prince, and the hitherto unheralded Warren Weir, showed his mettle, in running one almighty curve, determined not to be outrun by the also rans - the prime minister and her guests erupted in a most joyful burst of cheering that shook the core of the building.
And dears, when the dust died down and it was clear that Warren Weir had indeed run the race of his life to date for the Olympic bronze medal, for many, the shouts of triumph gave way to tears of joy.
And luvs, more tears were to come later at the medal presentation ceremony, that saw the raising of the Jamaican flag, not one, but three, over the Olympic Stadium in London. For many, the tears flowed freely, while some others took care to conceal their flowing joy.
Dears, this was the best party of the Independence celebration, bar none, and it made for an emotionally charged one and then some!
Indeed, mon congrats to all the athletes and supporting crew who made Jamaica 50 that much more special by their performance and decorum at the 30th Olympiad.