Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
International commentators have been saying for quite some time now that, for its size, Jamaica punches way above its weight.
This has been true of our culture, culinary explorations, musical contribution, and our sporting and athletic prowess, more so than before with the advent of Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and others.
Beat of our own drums
To be sure, we have always danced to the beat of our own drums, and it is by doing so have created and fashioned our unique identity, now copied and parlayed across the globe, as the new hip factor from the heady days of ska, Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, Merlene Ottey, et al, to the days of jerk and rum.
And in this respect, the world now looks to Jamaica for leadership in athletics, as the baton no longer resides in the hands of the Americans, but is planted here on the rock.
In this respect, the late Howard Aris was an international heavyweight as president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA). The respect he earned and garnered made him not just a voice from the Caribbean, but one of the foremost authority figures in the world of track and field, providing leadership, not just for Jamaica and the Caribbean, but in the sometimes contentious world of track and field.
With his departure, many in the international community despaired that indeed, Jamaica would be losing its pride of place in the international track and field body politic. But with the ascension of Dr Warren Blake to the JAAA presidency, and his team's performance during the London Olympics, some of those fears were set to rest.
So highly regarded was the late Howard Aris that, on the eve of the JAAA's elections for its slate of officers, the esteemed Ahmed Al Kamali, president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Athletic Federation, and IAAF council member, and his international relations director, Liesa Euton, jetted to Jamaica to meet with the newly elected slate of officers, pending the outcome of the elections; as well as to pay his respects to the late Howard Aris, for his contribution to world athletics. In a whirlwind visit, Al Kamali met with various officials and visited a number of Jamaican historic landmarks, culminating with his laying a wreath at the tomb of the late Howard Aris. A buoyant Al Kamali spoke of his platform of strengthening ties between the UAE Athletic Federation and the JAAA, as well as strengthening the global structures that govern the sports and the welfare of the athletes.
Well, on Sunday last, the visiting team was hosted at a cosy reception at Vale Royal.
Prime Minister The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, just back from her mini holiday in Florida, and looking simply radiant, was the hostess. Vale Royal, with its olde world charm and beauty; sprawling and beautifully kept grounds and well-manicured lawns, proved a most hospitable and welcoming outing for the international visitors, as here they mingled freely with a shortlist of guests that included: Senator Lambert Brown; the charmingly lovely Mrs Sandra Aris, son Quentin Aris and wife, the fab Lisa Aris, and their daughter Neah; daughter Shannon Aris-Johnally; Neah Aris and her daughter, businessman Steve Ashley; the charming Jennifer Edwards; businessman Chris Nakash and wife Zein Issa-Nakash and their offspring Jordan and AJ Nakash; the dapper Carl Bliss; the lovely Betty Barrett-Thompson; the fab Makeda Ramgeet; the lovely Jackie McGregor; Jevaughn Johnson and his grandmom, plus a number of others.
Indeed, it was pretty much a family get-together as Madam PM, a friend of long standing of the Aris family, as well as the others in attendance, was as charming as ever, making those present quite at ease with her ease of manner and light-hearted banter.
Dears, we are talking a downright fabulous reception here, where the beauty of the occasion was in its simplicity. But more anon as, indeed, the reception portends well for international relations.