Our Readers' Opinions
September 6, 2011
Big celebrations in small countries

Tue, Sept 6. 2011

The curtain may have come down on the 2011 World Athletics Championships in the Korean city of Daegu last Sunday, but in some tiny countries in the Caribbean, the celebrations are yet to reach a climax, as the people of Grenada and St. Kitts/Nevis await the return of their conquering heroes.{{more}}

While it is true that it is mighty Jamaica (in the athletics field) which led Caribbean triumphs, that was to be expected. But in spite of the electrifying world record in the Men’s 4×100 metres relay, Jamaica left Daegu, less successful than in the previous championships in 2009. Then, the Jamaican haul of 13 medals, including seven gold, put the Caribbean superstars in second position in the medal table, surpassed only by perennial champions, the USA. This time, the Jamaicans fell to fourth place (4 gold medals), being overtaken in the medal table by Russia and Kenya.

For the Kenyans, it was not only their third place with 17 medals, seven of them gold, which was so satisfying, it was their total domination of the distance events and the crushing of traditional rivals Ethiopia. This time the contest was a non-affair as the Ethiopians had their worst return in recent championships and gained only one gold and 4 bronze medals. Injury and perhaps the toll of time accounted for Ethiopia’s fall-off.

Sport can be a big feel-good factor to nations in the middle of crisis and which country needed such a boost more than the mighty United States of America, now stricken by severe economic hardship? That hardship is hitting particularly hard at the working population, and black people are at the bottom of the economic ladder there, enduring the worst of the crisis. So, how heartening it must have been to American blacks that their athletes led the American triumph, securing over half of the 12 gold medals won, to retain top spot in the athletics world.

Indeed without trying to divide athletes along the race barrier, it is interesting to note that more than half the gold medals at stake in the Championships, were won by black athletes. Even more intriguing is a look at the events in which blacks were not so successful. Though they can be classed under the broad headings, Field Events, it is in the traditional European events, the throwing of such weird instruments as the hammer and discus, that blacks have not yet been able to match their athleticism on the track. Only Cuba, with years of exposure and training during the Soviet bloc era, has produced outstanding athletes in these events. Food for thought!

To conclude where we started, little Grenada, all 133 square miles of it ,can boast one gold medal, the same as the likes of China, Australia, Britain and Poland, all with populations many times larger and with incomparable resources and levels of development. Big developed countries like France and Canada could not even strike gold. And, what can we say of the evergreen Kim Collins, whose efforts were rewarded with two bronze medals for St. Kitts/Nevis, with a population of less than 60,000? How countries like Spain, Italy and Belgium, all former colonial powers, but which were all behind the ‘Collins crew’, must envy the tiny islands of the Caribbean!

We have much more in us than we are aware.