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Let’s welcome our athletes home to a clean Jamaica

Monday, August 20, 2012    

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WE have to give it to our athletes – they performed extremely well in the 30th Olympiad recently held in London. They all not only performed to the fullest of their ability, but they also lifted the national spirit and restored the Jamaican exceptionalism that we can aspire and achieve greatness anywhere in the world.

Never before had I seen such an outpouring and twinning of national pride, patriotism and joy than what was displayed during the Olympics and the 50th anniversary of Independence. The unity of purpose, camaraderie and loyalty that both events produced gave the national psyche that extra oomph it so desperately needed, but it also restored hope and confidence in our capacity as a people to use our God-given talents, coupled with our extraordinary endowment of indomitability, tenacity and drive to earn our position in the League of Nations.

We salute all those who participated and represented our country in the Olympics; we acknowledge and thank the tens of thousands who put politics aside and who put the economic hardships in park mode, just to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Independence. The challenge ahead is how to capitalise on this outpouring of national pride and renewed patriotism. We cannot let this enthusiasm go to sleep; we cannot let the iron go cold while there is yet work to be done; and very serious work at that.

As we welcome home the athletes and as we continue the year-long celebration of our 50th anniversary; let us use the rest of the time to articulate a new vision and purpose for Jamaica. It behoves the government, the private sector, civil society, and the citizens to consolidate the gains from these events and to speak with one accord about Jamaica’s future and how they intend to use the unity of purpose to accomplish what is in Jamaica’s best interest.

We must not just plan a big welcome home party for the athletes. Parties, as we know, have a short shelf life. Instead, we must engage them in purposeful discussions with a view to using their triumph and dominance as catalysts to propel the rest of the country into action. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from their participation in these events that can be as inspirational as they can be aspirational, and we must not let the “cup” pass us while we unwisely bob and weave around the fundamental issues.

We have been talking ad nauseam about the potential of positioning Jamaica as the “sports and heritage tourism” centre of the world, but it has only been pure talk – talk and more talk. The time has come to move into action and the government, as the chief facilitator, has a seminal role to play in the implementation and operationalisation of these activities. We cannot continue to sit on our gold mines and wonder nostalgically about the possibilities without actualising these ideas where feasible.

The 50th anniversary of Independence has underscored the tremendous economic value-added that proper planning, implementation and marketing our culture and heritage could bring to our economic and social development and growth. We have enough cultural attractions to push us into action and to cause us to organise and use our natural talents around our culture and heritage to benefit economically.

Our sterling performance at the Olympics should inspire both government and private capital to unite around a common objective of positioning Jamaica as the “sports tourism” hub of the world by investing in world-class facilities to train not only our athletes, but also athletes from around the world. For whether we accept it or not, there is a feeling that Jamaica possesses something special that causes its athletes to perform as exceptionally as they have been doing.

It is not by sheer coincidence or luck that Jamaica has produced the fastest man in the world. It is through a combination of hard work, natural talent, determination and an interestingly supportive but tough environment. Therefore, we have to reposition, rebrand, rebuild and upgrade our sports institutions as centres for athletic excellence so that they can earn their subsistence.

However, there are some other small but practical things that we can and should do in the short term to sustain this outpouring of pride and patriotism, and one such activity could be part of the welcome-home celebration party for the Olympians. And although the time is short, we can redouble our efforts as a country and buckle down to do some serious work of cleaning up Jamaica as the theme of the party. Let us welcome home our athletes to a clean and tidy Jamaica.

The government, private sector, civil society and citizens have a role to play through the National Solid Waste Management Authority in the effort to clean up Jamaica as the perfect welcome-home celebration for our athletes. There would be no better gift to the athletes and to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

Let us join hands and hearts, pockets and pennies, in this proposed clean-up effort. Yet, the clean-up to which this article speaks goes beyond the physical. It also includes the social environment as well. We have to clean up our attitude toward our country, symbols, and institutions, even as we rekindle that special kind of spirituality with which we used to regard one another “…so that Jamaica may increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity.”

Burnscg@aol.com

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