Our athletes did us extremely proud at the Olympic Games held last year in Beijing China with their scintillating performance. As a nation, we were proud as Jamaica became the toast of the world. As we face the clear and present challenges of 2009 and beyond, there are some valuable principles we can learn from the Olympic experience that we can use as a paradigm for nation building.
1. Recognizing Our Greatness – the performance of our athletes at the Beijing Games has once more reinforced the fact that as a people we are well endowed with extra ordinary talents and abilities. Time and time again this fact is highlighted in a wide sphere of activities and by an array of outstanding personalities. Bob Marley, Byron Lee, and Ernie Ranglin in music; T. P. Lecky and Henry Lowe in Science and Technology; Cecil Baugh, Malachi ‘Cappo’ Reynolds and Edna Manley in the Arts; Father Hugh Sherlock and Bishop Percival Gibson in Religion; Marcus Garvey in Philosophy; Allan ‘Skill’ Cole, Mike MCcallum, George Headley, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Herb Mckinley, Donald Quarrie, Merline Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Asafa Powell, Ussain Bolt and a whole host of others in Athletics. There is therefore no doubt that we are blessed with greatness in all areas of life. The issue is how we move from a nation of great individuals to become a great and prosperous nation.
2. Training and development – The superb performance of our athletes is due in no small way to the expertise and dedication of track and field coaches at the primary, secondary, club and national levels and to the strength of the various developmental meets and athletic programs. This is a clear indication of what our people can achieve when skills and abilities are exposed to training and development. A greater focus therefore must be placed on training and development as we go forward.
3. Schooling – The strength of our athletic program lies in the quality of the schools’ athletic program. For the most part our schools have done well in discovering and developing our athletes to become world-class record breakers. Can you imagine what we would achieve as a nation if our schools in general would ramp up their Language Arts, Science, Technology, Mathematics skills and other departments with a view of producing world-class citizens? In 2009 and beyond, greater attention must be placed on the teaching and learning processes in our schools and the management of the school plant. We must demand more from our educators and from our students. It is a fact that there is no poor country that is educated and there is no educated country that is poor.
4. Parenting – One of the defining features of the triumph in Beijing is the role played by the respective parents in the success of the athletes. We saw the positive effect on those athletes whose parents journeyed to Beijing to give them support. We gain insights into the success of the athletes when the parents enunciated the values and principles by which they used in the up bringing of their respective children. Discipline, hard work, godliness, ambition, respect, honest and humility are just some of the principles they highlighted. The point must me made that all the parents of the victorious athletes are from inner city and deep rural areas, and raised their children with humble means and in trying economic and social conditions. The evidence is quite clear – if they could, we all can. If we are going to solve our social, moral and economic problems, we must begin with effective parenting. Related social services, NGO’s and faith based organizations must devise effective programs to provide effective support to parents.
5. Community Support – it was a thrill to witness the overflow of pride and joy from the communities from which the athletes sprang. From the ‘garrisons’ of to the deep rural hamlets, we saw the varied degree of emotions exuded by the communities of origin. We cannot forget the festive atmosphere in Maxfield Avenue, Water House, Sherwood Content and Troy but neither can we forget the collective disappointment and empathy of the Orange Field community after Asafa failed to medal in the 100m. The respective communities shared in the triumph and disappointed of their athletes. They were at one with their athlete and there athlete was one of them. The primary school teacher, the shop keeper, the taxi driver, they all felt like they had make a contribution in producing an Olympic champion. Jamaica is a collection of communities and if Jamaica is to be developed we must fix the communities. Too many communities across the island are run-down and divided. The community space has become too violent, lewd, x-rated, dirty and detrimental to the development of purposeful individuals. A concerted effort must be made by communities in conjunction with the State to resuscitate the community Youth Clubs, Neighbourhood Watch and other such groups. Every community should engender a climate in which the next world class athlete, farmer, educator, musician or scientist can strive.
6. Team Work – There were two defining moments for me in the Beijing Games. The first was the disappointment of not getting the ‘sure win’ in the Women’s 4x100m Relay after the foul-up in the baton exchange. What was defining for me was the response of the members of the team after the disappointment. There was no rancour or blaming of any one person, instead the team took collective responsibility. What can we learn from this? We have a tendency of narrowly blaming politicians, the police, the government, the church, the education system or the dance hall artistes for the ills of the society. Let us think as Team Jamaica and make 2009 the year for collective responsibility. Ironically, the other defining moment for me was the baton exchange in the Men’s 4x100m Relay. It was a superb example of team work. As Ussain handed over the baton to Asafa on the third and final leg, he shouted “run Asafa…run”, in that distinct and strong Jamaican accent. In fact, Ussain ran the entire last leg with Asafa, cheering him on. The rest is history – Asafa won his first Olympic gold medal, Ussain won his third gold medal of the game and Team Jamaica struck gold with a world record time. This is very instructive, Ussain was interested in Asafa winning a gold medal and equally, Ussain wanted to win another gold medal for himself and for Jamaica. In other words if you do well, I will do well and the team will do well. We need to translate this principle to all areas of national life, in the home, at school, at the work place, in parliament and in communities. For example, if we support the police, the police will be better able to support us and if the police support us, we will be better able to support them. Let us think and act as a team in 2009 and beyond.
7. Individual Responsibility – The performance of our athletes in Beijing was no fluke, accident nor miracle. Individually, the athletes apply hard work, training, sacrifice, self confidence and other such virtues in the ‘Bird Nest’. Too many Jamaicans are waiting on somebody to ‘give dem a ting’ or to ‘let off some ting’ because ‘nuting nah gwaan’. This mentality is aided and abetted by the politics of patronage. We need to remind our people that if they want good ‘dem nose a fi run’ and God help those that help themselves. The State has the responsibility to provide leadership, infrastructure, security, good governance, etc., but every citizen is individually responsible for their social and economic development.
8. Spirit of Excellence – Our performance in Beijing was distinguished by its class and excellence. We did not win just one medal in the Women’s 4x100m final, we won all three; we did not only win medals, we won gold medals; we did not only win gold medals, we set world records. To cap it off, the celebrations that followed each victory were classy and distinctly Jamaican. Imagine what we would become as a nation if we should inculcate and manifest this spirit of excellence in the schoolroom and in the boardroom, in the private and in the public sector, on the playfield and on the road. Let us do away with shortcuts, shoddiness, piecemeal and mediocrity in 2009 and strive for excellence.
9. Nationality Unity – Any objective analysis will indicate that the absence national unity is one of the major problems we face. But every now and then we are given opportunities to come together as a people – Independence in 1962, Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and the World Cup qualification in 1998 are three such opportunities. Our triumph in Beijing is another such great opportunity. The scenes of oneness, national pride and unity are still fresh in my mind. I will never forget the feeling of one Jamaica as people travelled all the way from Portland, St. Mary and St. Elizabeth to join fellow Jamaicans in celebration in Half Way Tree. My fear is that we will miss another opportunity to unite as nation. Unity is not accidental, it must be hoped for, prayed for, planned for and it must be practiced. Our motto, anthem and pledge contain much insight into how this can be done. Our political and religious leaders must exemplify this unity. Let us engage the services of our musicians, athletes, and community leaders in the process. As the Jamaican ship sails in the turbulent waters of national challenges and the threatening winds of global crisis, all hands must be on deck. Let us all become a part of the solution in 2009 and beyond so that “Jamaica may advance in beauty, fellowship and prosperity and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.