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Athletes building up 'Brand Jamaica'

POWER OF FOUR: Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade celebrate winning the 4x100m gold in Rio

JAMAICAN PRIME minister Andrew Holness has indicated that the Government intends to build a lasting legacy and symbol of the Jamaican sporting heroes, while saluting the country’s Rio 2016
Olympians and Paralympians during a recent symbolic function in their honour.

The event, which was held at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on October 15, was
part of a three-day Heroes’ weekend celebration, which had been organised by the Ministry of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport. The colourful and entertaining evening saw a modest, but very vocal crowd in attendance.

The Prime Minister told those gathered at the centre: “Tonight belongs to the athletes. They made us gather as one people, with one mission in Half-Way Tree, as one people.

“They kept you on the edge of your couch, willing them, on, thousands of miles away through your television, for them to win.”

Holness spoke to loud applause as he said: “You shared in the thrill of their victory.


HONOURED: Usain Bolt with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange

“And yes, we were sad when they didn’t win, but we willed them on anyway because their victory is our victory.

“So don’t ask what we are giving to our athletes, which should never be questioned, because my answer is we haven’t done enough.

PRIDE

“What we are doing here is just symbolic to show that we care about you, our athletes, because you bring pride to our nation.

“You make Jamaica’s name fly high in the world, and we could never pay you for what you have done in building Brand Jamaica,” the Prime Minister stressed.

“So on behalf of a grateful nation, on behalf of all Jamaican people here and in the diaspora I stand here on this stage to say ‘thank you’.”

He added: “I have directed the minister of sport, minister of tourism to develop a concept and come to the nation because the nation has to have participation in anything that we do to represent the legacy of our athletes.”

There was a sizeable delegation of athletes in attendance, from sprint legend Usain Bolt, to Racers clubmate Yohan Blake, then Asafa Powell, who received the biggest cheers on the male side.

On the female side, sprint superstars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson, and Veronica Campbell-Brown were given voracious cheers of approval.

Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, whose ministry hosted the show, gave tributes to the Olympians, Paralympians, and national chess team, which also competed in Europe during the summer at the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.


WINNING WAYS: Elayne Thompson won the 100m and 200m gold medals in Rio

Drawing on the popular Jamaican phrase ‘wi likkle but wi tallawah’, Grange said: “Your success over the years continues to excite and astound the world.

“I must take this opportunity to once more acknowledge the forerunners who set the stage and built the foundation for those of you who are with us today.

“The achievement of our athletes at the Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games is no small feat, and this in spite of our size and our population and limited financial resources,” Grange observed.

More than 11,000 athletes competed at the Rio Games, with Jamaica’s 57 athletes finishing 16th of 209 countries and third in track and field behind the United States and Kenya.

EXPLOITS

There were 36 first-time athletes on the team, which won six gold, three silver, and two bronze medals.

Shot putter Odayne Richards, who was co-captain of the Rio team, delivered the vote of thanks.

“On behalf of the Olympic team, Olympians, I would like to say thank you,” said Richards.

“We really appreciate it and we look to 2017 for more exploits.”

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