Sun | Aug 19, 2018

​Tony Becca | Minister Grange is talking big

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Sport Olivia Grange (left) with Jamaica Olympic Association president Christopher Samuda.
Usain Bolt
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One of the busiest and hardest-working ministers of sports that I have seen in action is Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange.

Saddled with the burden of the title of minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, Ms Grange has been performing wonderfully and promisingly.

On Wednesday, April 18, Minister Grange made me happy, very happy.

In The Gleaner's sports pages of that day, Ms Grange was quoted as saying that she was in serious discussions to get the Commonwealth Games back to Jamaica for the first time since 1966.

That was music to my ears.

It was so not because Jamaica did so well in the recent Games in Australia, but because, unlike any thought of hosting the Olympic Games or World Championships, probably Jamaica, just probably, can afford to host this one. We probably can host this one, and this one falls in with my idea of what Jamaica can do, has done before, or should be able to do, and what I have been talking about for years.

Ever since the coming of George Headley in 1930; and ever since the coming of Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, and Les Laing in 1948 and 1952; ever since the coming of the likes of Herbert McDonald, Mike Fennell, and Molly Rhone; and ever since the coming of men like Glen Mills and Stephen Francis, Jamaica has shown the world what it is capable of doing, has done, and what it can probably do again.

Jamaica, however, must benefit, financially, from all of this greatness, and it must benefit so that the country can continue to support sports while assisting in funding the necessities of life in this country.

Minister Grange said, "I am talking to sports organisations. I am talking to ministers of sports in various countries and private sector sponsors. I am focused on bringing some major sporting events to Jamaica."

 

CENTRE OF SPORTS TOURISM

 

She said more than that: "My intention is to ensure that Jamaica is at the centre of sports tourism and sports tourism is at the centre of brand Jamaica."

And she continued: "As a brand, we are big. Usain Bolt is at the centre of it. Bolt, Bob Marley are at the centre of it, and if we are able to put the right infrastructure in place, then we can sell Jamaica,"

Jamaica has been big for a long, long time, especially from Headley in 1930, through Lindy Delapenha, Alfred Valentine, and England in 1950; through Wint in London in 1948; through the 4x400 relay in Helsinki in 1952; and through Denis Johnson, who once was the fastest man in the world over 100 yards.

Jamaica has also been big because of the likes of Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, and Lawrence Rowe in the 1970s and 1980s; Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh after that; Trevor Berbick and McCallum in the 1980s; the Reggae Boyz of 1998; the Sunshine Girls of today; and because of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Alia Atkinson, Elaine Thompson, and of course, a man like Usain Bolt, the fastest man on Earth.

At times, Jamaicans tend to behave as if Jamaica has just started to flex its muscles, obviously forgetting, or not remembering, or not knowing of the times of as great or greater achievements, or accomplishments such as Bunny Grant winning the Commonwealth boxing lightweight title, or Grant and Percy Hayles fighting for world titles, and of Lance Lumsden and Richard Russell beating Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell of the United States of America in a Davis Cup match.

They also seem to forget, or do not remember, or do not know of the days of Fuarnado Roberts, Leo Davis, and Glen Mitchell, Maurice Foster, Dave Foster, Joy Foster, Monica DeSouza, and Orville Haslam when Jamaica dominated the region's table tennis, and the days of Syd Bartlett and Anthony Hill and the days of 1965 when Jamaica just missed qualification for the World Cup football finals in England.

 

PRINCES OF HOCKEY

 

They also forget the days of David Weller, winner of a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Jamaica's one and only cycling bronze, and of the days of the likes of Ryan White, Simon Dixon, Michelle Holt, Audrey Gaynor, and Tasha Cooke when in the 1970s through the 1980s, Jamaica were the princes and princesses of hockey in the region.

And lest we forget, there was also the bobsleigh ambassadors of the Olympics and Cool Runnings fame.

Yes, Jamaica was good once upon a time. In fact, but for track and field and netball, Jamaica was better, on the field, years ago than they are today.

By hosting things like the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1962, the Commonwealth title fight in 1962, the Commonwealth Games in 1966, the Sunshine Showdown world boxing title fight in 1973, the Lovebird table tennis tournaments, the Olympic Re-run in 1973, the Manley Games, the Johnny Walker World Golf Championships, the World Juniors in 2002, the World Netball Championships, the cricket World Cup in 2007, and, of course, the world-famous annual ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships, Jamaica has shown that it is as good off the field as it is on it.

One week later, Minister Grange also said: "World-class facilities, coaching, and competition are central to the achievement of our sporting excellence, and they are also central to the development of our economic thrust."

Jamaica, however, must improve the level of local participation in some sports such as women's cricket and women's football in order to match the level of its search for international achievements.

Ride on, minister, always remembering, however, that Jamaica today is not like Jamaica in 1966 when the stadium, for example, was perfect. In 2018, however, it is in need of renovation, and especially for such grand ideas.

And there are other things to do, things like renovating or replacing the Cornwall Regional Hospital, fighting crime, etcetera, etcetera.

It would be, as old-timers used to say, silly for Jamaicans to hang their hat where they cannot reach it, and even worse than that, for them to impress the world while internally their people are hurting, short of some basics things in life.