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When Jamaica Wins, It Means Sweet Revenge

Posted: 08/07/2012 12:22 pm

Tim Knight writes the regular media column, Watching the Watchdog, for HuffPost Canada.

Tropical storm Ernesto -- squalls, high winds, heavy rain -- hits Jamaica Sunday.

At around the same time, the nation's Usain Bolt charges the finish line in the 100-metre sprint -- marquee event at the 2012 London Games -- in an Olympic record 9.63 seconds.

Still fastest man in the known world.

Back on the island, even Ernesto can't dampen the explosion of delight. Three million Jamaicans go crazy. From the very proper ladies who afternoon-tea in Mandeville, to the descendants of the mighty Maroons in Cockpit Country, to the higglers and la-la girls of Trenchtown.

The islanders join some two billion people around the world watching the great race. (Strangely, this doesn't include around 31 million Americans because NBC refuses to show it live, holds it back for prime time later that evening.)

A woman selling jerk chicken outside the Kingston Stadium sums up: "Bolt runs, the whole world shakes."

Indeed, the whole world (except America) does shake. To add to the excitement, another Jamaican, Yohan Blake, wins silver in the same race. And only the day before, Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, wins gold in the women's 100-metre equivalent.

More than four thousand miles to the south, Jamaica's Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, tells her people: "Across the city of London, with every stride that they made, our Jamaican spirits soared."

These victories mean a lot more to Jamaicans than deciding who can run fastest while stripped down to underwear.

There's a marvelous symbolism involved. Even, perhaps, revenge.

For almost three hundred years Jamaica was more or less owned by the British and ruled from this same city of London. The system was politely called colonialism.

For the first 170 years, Britain's colonialism in Jamaica was built on slavery. And slavery inevitably included torture, rape and murder as well as institutional, systemic racism.

Slavery and racism together tended to produce people accustomed to believing themselves innately inferior to their rulers. People with little experience in making decisions for themselves.

The legacy of British slavery, even long after it ended, was damaged people who had to fight for both their political and psychological freedom.

All of which makes it deliciously appropriate that these descendants of British slaves won such important sporting contests so spectacularly in London City last weekend.

But there's more. Much more.

By wonderful coincidence, Bolt's Olympic victory on August 5 came just one day before Jamaicans celebrated the 50th anniversary of their independence from Britain. They've been politically self-governing all this time, but kept a British woman as Queen of Jamaica.

Now that, too, is going to change.

P.M. Simpson-Miller recently declared that Jamaicans have had enough of the Queen Across the Ocean and intend to declare a republic.

Simpson-Miller calls Queen Elizabeth "a beautiful lady" but adds firmly: "I think, time come."

When that time does come, Jamaica's motto will finally be reality: "Out of Many, One People."

And Usain Bolt will likely still be the fastest man who ever raced.

________________


The men's 100 metres was the highlight of the Games so far. No doubt about it. A magnificent spectacle truly deserving of detailed coverage.

But CTV's before and after blathering around the race seemed to last forever. It kept on repeating itself. It included a very long (if well produced) feature which made Bolt out to be a mixture of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ. With Canada's Kielburger brothers thrown in just in case you didn't get it.

Everything in the coverage was worshipful and entirely over the top. Words like immoderate, inordinate, redundant, indulgent and exorbitant sprang to mind.

The problem with committing so much time and effort to that single race, of course, was that a whole lot of the day's other world-class sports -- cycling, fencing, diving, boxing, tennis, athletics and show jumping -- were simply ignored.

CTV was guilty of wretched excess.

Entirely unsuited to that exquisitely simple 9.63-second run.

In my last column I promised to "question why CTV spends so much time showing often meaningless heats and semi-finals when the Games burst with much more fun stuff."

Apologies, am still working on it.

 

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