The Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony ...
The Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics, held in Athens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember vividly where I was when Danny McFarlane won his silver medal in the 400 m hurdles in the 2004 Olympics – inside the bookshop at the University of the West Indies, where everybody in the store gathered around the mounted TV cheering ourselves silly as Danny did that little awkward looking hop over the hurdles, one by one, until he dashed across the finish line in second place.

The reason I remember so clearly is that we were there with an American, who while indulgent, was clearly a little bemused at this show of national solidarity for a single athlete.

It was the same thing when we watched Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz playing Japan in the 1998 World Cup.

English: Logo of the Jamaica Football Federati...
English: Logo of the Jamaica Football Federation and its representative teams. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work in a newsroom and cannot remember a time before or since when the phone stayed silent for over an hour.

But that’s what it means to be Jamaican. One athlete can inspire such pride that we start a local newscast declaring that this is “Deon Hemmings Day”, as CVM did after Hemmings became the first Jamaican woman ever to win Olympic gold in 1996.

Although I am a little concerned about the over-hyped expectations for these Games as I said in my post here, the truth is that sports at this level brings out the best in us.

For the next two and a half weeks everything will recede in importance, the usual troika of issues making the newscasts – crime, the economy and politics – all that will fade into insignificance as we stay glued to the TV and discuss the merits and demerits of the various athletes participating.

Even in the sports in which we are not traditionally strong, we’ll be glued to the TVs, watching the sheer beauty and strength of those who have trained for years to have their moment in the sun.

We’ll go around wearing our national colours, and smiling at strangers  -unusual in urbanised Kingston!

It’s hard for a citizen of a large developed country like the US to understand the immense pride we feel when we see little Jamaica up there with the best in the world. As Miss Lou would say “we heart swell big.”

Jamaican Flag
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It shows us that we can be world class, that despite the disastrous failures we have had in some areas, our lackluster economy, the distressing crime levels, the havoc our politicians have wreaked over the years, that we are still the stuff of which excellence is made. Simply put, our athletes give us hope, and inspire us to achieve in our own lives. For that, I thank them.

Big up Team Jamaica.