London 2012 Olympic medals made by The Royal M...
London 2012 Olympic medals made by The Royal Mint, Llantrisant / Medalau Llundain 2012 wedi’u cynhyrchu gan y Bathdy Brenhinol, Llantrisant (Photo credit: Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru)

I am really hoping that it is just a few, disgruntled Jamaicans who are upset that the Government of Jamaica has decided to award cash gifts to our Olympians and Paralympians.

Each individual gold medalist will receive $1m (per gold medal), silver medalists – $750,000, bronze medalists – $500,000, relay gold is worth $600,000, relay silver – $400,000, relay bronze – $360,000, and finalists will receive $350,000.  Other participants and support staff will also receive cash gifts.

I support this move 100%. I wish we could give more. But here’s what some of the critics are saying.

 

We have other things we should be spending money on.

Sure, we will always have other things to spend money on. Should we instead be spending the money on education? Sanitation? Cleaning gullies and drains? I guess it comes down to how much value you attach to the athletes’ performance. I attach tremendous importance to education. Put simplistically, it uplifts people and improves their chance of a better quality of life. But I can’t even begin to value the euphoric feeling I – AND MOST OF YOU- received from our athletes’ performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the World Championships in Berlin and Daegu and the 2012 London Olympics.

It was a feeling that finally, after being beaten down  and depressed for years because of our corruption, political

london 2012 olympics - mens 200m final (crowd)
london 2012 olympics – mens 200m final (crowd) (Photo credit: jon smith.)

violence, lack-lustre economy, and crime, crime, crime, we had a reason to hold our heads high. We could wear our national colours, the black, green and gold, and proclaim that we were proud to be Jamaicans! Sure there are other bright spots, but very few like the last two Olympics.

Personally, I always receive a jolt of personal inspiration in watching our athletes perform and excel. I can’t value any of that, but heck, a couple hundred thousand Jamaican dollars is at least a start. And just a reminder here – many of these athletes operate for much of the year outside Jamaica. A million Jamaican dollars (the highest incentive) is just a little more than US$11,000.

Some people point to the value of the free tourism exposure Jamaica received all over the world. But even if not even one additional tourist visited Jamaica as a result of the Olympics and Paralympics, I would still say the money is well deserved.

They are competing for themselves

This is almost too nonsensical to comment on. Sure, they benefit personally, but they could benefit running for any country. We have athletes who would be able to jump ship at the drop of a hat. They stay with Jamaica out of love and patriotism. At the end of a race, what do they reach for first? Jamaica’s national flag. What is played when they are on that podium? Jamaica’s national anthem. What do the commentators say when they take the track? “The Jamaicans!” What do English, Japanese and other nationalities do to show their support? Wear Jamaican colours. Nuff said.

We ought to give them houses and land instead?

I disagree with this. I just think money is a lot more neutral and more useful. Property can be a hassle, and you then you have to try to ascertain what is a suitable location, and a suitable house. Do they all get houses or land in the same location? Who says they want land? Does an athlete living overseas want property in Jamaica? Maybe or maybe not. But why bother? Everybody can use money.

Usain Bolt after his victory and world record ...
Usain Bolt after his victory and world record in the 100m at the bird’s nest, during 2008 Beijing olympics, august 16th (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bolt/Asafa/Shell-Ann/Veronica are rich enough – we don’t need to give them anything

Are you kidding me? Wow, that’s a great message to send. “You’re doing so well, we’ll just ignore you when we’re handing out incentives for doing well.” Folks, that is called reverse discrimination. It would be guaranteed to engender resentment and is a non-starter. Forget that.

Are we going to give all our other athletes cash gifts as well?

I certainly think we should maintain this for any athlete excelling at the highest levels of international competition although the exact sums to be given out would probably vary. I think it is a great incentive for athletes, many of whom struggle to remain in competition and have tremendous financial difficulties. If we are serious about developing sports why not show it by tangible, financial contributions to our athletes?

Why should we give them anything at all?

This is where I would ask my fellow Jamaicans to bury the mean-spiritedness and pettiness, please. Let me remind the people who have clearly forgotten, as I said before, many athletes struggle to remain in international competition once they leave college. Many give up. Those who have the grit, the core strength, the resilience and determination to keep going are among a tiny cadre of elite athletes. See my interview with Olympian Jason Morgan here.  Lack of sponsorship and expensive training gear are just some of the things that they have to deal with. Yes, many get SOME financial assistance, but they will tell you that it is hardly ever enough to cover costs. One bad injury can end a season, and perhaps a career. Medical costs are ridiculous.

But you know how I would sum up why I think these cash gifts are well-deserved? They are one small way of saying THANK YOU from a grateful nation.

London 2012: Athletics
London 2012: Athletics (Photo credit: Daniel Coomber)
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