Wed | Jun 20, 2018

Not a normal election

Published:Thursday | November 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's team officials in London's Olympic Stadium cheering on the athletes at the 2012 Games. They are (from left) Anthony Passmore, equestrian team manager; Ludlow Watts, athletics team manager; team doctor and JAAA president, Dr Warren Blake, and Maurice Westney, athletics coach. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

Elections are intriguing to watch in normal circumstances. Power shifts can make your skin tingle. In the old days, rival party supporters would literally sweep each other out of town and friendly jousting was the norm. Ask your grandparents. Those elections were a ton of fun. Things are a little different now ... in normal elections.

The 2012 JAAA election is anything but normal. The incumbent president, Dr Warren Blake, stayed under cover until the 10th hour, while his challengers - Lincoln Eatmon and Grace Jackson - did the usual round of press.

Jackson, the former track star and first vice-president, pressed her claim on Facebook.

plenty at stake

The stakes couldn't be higher. Athletics has come a long way since the 1970s and '80s when Jamaica seldom won more than two medals in each major championship. Now, a medal take of fewer than 10, like the nine from the 2011 World Championships, feels sub-par.

Beyond all the talk about tapping into Brand Jamaica, the post-election JAAA must keep pace with a Golden Era where Jamaica glowed with gold in Beijing, Berlin, Daegu and London.

No one, but no one, wants this time of plenty to end. Despite holding things together to the tune of 12 medals in London, Blake is in the classic catch-22 situation. Even if Jamaica had taken home 22 medals from London, the credit would have gone to the late Howard Aris.

Blake's manifesto reportedly includes a host of interesting measures, including a coaching exchange with Kenya designed to boost Jamaican distance running.

Eatmon, a fine lawyer, was vice-president under the late Adrian Wallace. He has campaigned under the banner of probity, and promised attention to women's athletics and the growing local collegiate circuit. Best of all for Eatmon, he suffers none of the stigma some level against the good doctor, Jackson and the rest of the existing executive.

That covers public perception of the near expulsion of six athletes from the Jamaican team to the 2009 World Championships and the initial non-selection of any sprint hurdlers to the 2011 World Youth Championships.

Jackson is the classic athlete-coach-administrator and has the successful expansion of the University of the West Indies sports scholarship programme under her belt. Her candidacy is fascinating. Voted down 3-12 in an executive race for the caretaker presidency when Aris died last November, she would become the JAAA's first-ever woman leader if she wins. She has star quality built in and a target of 20 medals in the 2020 Olympics. In a normal election, that might be enough for an unprecedented victory.

She may well have the key to a new block of voters, a younger group of retired internationals.

In a normal election, these three Jamaicans would have faced each other in formal or informal debates in public fora or in the media. In this election, with just around 370 voters, the public hasn't been duly engaged.

bickering, suspicions

Instead, a public row between two Jamaican heroes - super sprinter Donald Quarrie and sprint guru Glen Mills - has revealed an old conflict and a suggestion that Mills forced DQ off the doctor's slate in a swap for the 20-30 votes held by the guru's Racers Track Club.

Mills and Blake have denied the charge by the Q, who was a vice-president under Aris and Blake.

In addition, Mills asked for an investigation into the Jermaine Gonzales Olympic 4x400 affair. With Blake as team doctor and Quarrie as technical leader, an apparently ailing 'Gonz' ran to a stop, baton in hand, in the 4x400 heats in London.

Pressured by Mills, the JAAA has started the investigation.

In a normal election with a nation full of voters, that could hurt Blake. In this one, he need only convince enough of the 370 to vote for him and his team.

With the row dominating the headlines, the focus on programmes and policies has been obscured. I feel like speeding this election up to 80 revolutions per minutes so it would end quickly. If it gets postponed for any reason, I'll hit fast forward anyway.

Hubert Lawrence has covered sports since 1987.