London 2012 banner at The Monument.
London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Olympic fever is now at a level never before seen in Jamaica.

That’s great and how it should be. The Olympics Games are, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest show on earth (sorry, football fans!)

The problem I am having, though, is the unrealistic expectations. It is understandable on one level. After all, our athletes gave Jamaica’s best ever performance at the Beijing Olympics, at a level that electrified the world –led by the wonderful, colourful, charismatic record breaker Usain Bolt.

Usain Bolt in celebration about 1 or 2 seconds...
Usain Bolt in celebration about 1 or 2 seconds after his 100m victory at Beijing Olympics 2008, breaking the world record. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then came the World Championships in Berlin and Daegu, and we cemented our place on the world stage – and painted targets on our backs. The loud-mouthed American Justin Gatlin has been talking about taking down the Jamaicans.

Justin Gatlin in Helsinki, 10th IAAF World Cha...
Justin Gatlin in Helsinki, 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, after he won 100 Metres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s all part of the hype and the trash talking that goes along with most sports. If we’re honest, it’s part of the fun.

Unrealistic Expectations

But all the media hype about gold gold gold is having a more dangerous effect. It’s raising expectations, which were probably unrealistic to begin with. All that talk of gold is making us think nothing else is worth cheering for.

I watched to my shock, Jamaicans in Half Way Tree watching races at the World Championships, walk off without making a comment or cracking a smile if Jamaicans didn’t stop the clock in first place. Only gold is worth cheering for apparently. It’s not a new attitude, though I think it’s getting worse. I remember being perplexed some years ago to hear a radio announcer grudgingly congratulate a relay team although they “only” got a bronze.

We are a country of 2.5 million or thereabouts, with a PHENOMENAL record of achievement.

We have won over 50 Olympic medals so far, almost all in track and field (special big up to David Weller – Olympic bronze in  cycling, Moscow, 1980).

I checked the medal table for the Beijing Olympics.

Gold Medal Jamaican Men's Relay Team
Gold Medal Jamaican Men’s Relay Team (Photo credit: Reese the Law Girl)

Jamaica came in 14th IN ALL with our 11 medals, six of which were gold. The nations that placed higher? Largely economic powerhouses and developed countries  – China, USA, Russia, Great Britain and N. Ireland, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Italy, France, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Kenya.

But that doesn’t mean that we will always do that well, either in terms of total medals or in their colours. The London 2012 Olympics will see 205 countries sending over 10,000 athletes to participate in 26 sports, with 39 disciplines, and 300 events.

Elite Sports

Do the math. How many athletes will actually be able to make the finals of their events, and then medal on top of that? This is elite sports at its best. Which is why we need to temper our expectations. Cheer on our athletes, of course!

But this ridiculous Jamaican attitude many of us have that only gold medals count has got to change.  For any athlete, making an Olympic team means you’re among the best in the world. We need to recognize that and applaud all those who are in London wearing our black, gold and green, whether they make the finals or not, whether they medal or not.

And as we wait impatiently for the track and field to begin , let’s not forget to cheer on our athletes also representing Jamaica with much less hype and fanfare – Samantha Albert in equestrian

Kenneth Edwards in taekwondo

and Alia Atkinson in swimming.

Then we need to give an extra loud cheer to anyone who makes it to the finals of their events. Stop for a moment. These are the best of the best, now competing among themselves. To actually get a medal? That’s a dream come true.

What does a bronze medal mean? That you are third best in the world! Silver – second in the world! Cause for celebration indeed!

To say it takes hard work and determination to even make it to the Olympics sounds too inadequate to describe what all these athletes have gone through. National record holder in the discus thrower Jason Morgan, spoke to me about that, and you can read my post on him here.

English: Olympic medals revealed in Trafalgar ...
English: Olympic medals revealed in Trafalgar Square, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back Off!

Unrealistic expectations only burden people, and that includes athletes. So want to help them? Back off  with the constant calls for gold, which, with the best will in the world, they may not be able to deliver.

Of course we all want to see our athletes win as many gold medals as possible.  We want them to perform at their best and fulfil their potential. We’ll be disappointed if realistic hopes and expectations are not fulfilled. But that’s the key word. Realistic. All I’m asking  is that we be realistic and temper our expectations.