The Racers Grand Prix, a classy affair


June 18, 2016
Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer Usain Bolt (centre) competing against Yohan Blake (left) and Asafa Polwell in the men's 100 metres at the Racers JN Grand Prix at the National Stadium last Saturday night. Bolt won in 9.88 seconds.
@Normal:Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (centre) powers to victory in the women's 100 metres in 11.09 seconds at the JN Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium last Saturday. Barbara Pierre of the United States (left) was second in 11.11, while Carmelita Jeter (right) was sixth in 11.28.

Western Bureau:

The decision I took to spend the early part of last Saturday night before my television set watching the inaugural JN Racers Grand Prix, which was staged at the National Stadium in Kingston, is one that has left me with a deep sense of satisfaction and some very special memories.

In fact, I think the organisers of the event deserve the highest commendation possible for their organisation and execution of what was indeed an exceptional event, which in my opinion leaves absolutely no doubt that we not only have world class athletes but we have the capacity to stage world class events as well.

While the annual Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships is likely to continue to hold pride of place in Jamaica's track and field, especially from a parochial perspective, I nonetheless believe that, what unfolded last Saturday night, in terms of substance and quality, the Racers Grand Prix could well take global significance on par with what is happening on the Diamond League circuit.

Surely, outside of the Olympic Games and the IAAF World Championship, I doubt there is any single track meet in the world where you could find the incomparable Usain Bolt, the sub-ten king Asafa Powell and the crown prince of sprints, Yohan Blake, lining up together in the same 100m race.

more special

And, to make the event even more special, in addition to the 'sprinting kings' of Jamaica, the organisers also had our reigning queen of speed, the phenomenal Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is poised to emerge as the greatest female sprinter of all times, once she gets it right in Brazil this summer and emerges with another gold medal in the 100m.

As I sat glued to my television watching the events as they unfolded before the appreciative fans at the national stadium, it suddenly dawned on me that, had I not known that the event was being staged here in Jamaica, I could easily have been fooled into believing it was London, Rome or Paris, based on the quality, production and execution.

In fact, in focusing on the quality of the event, it has caused me to once again question the sincerity of our political leaders when they talk about marketing Jamaica as a sports tourism destination. Surely, this event has shown that with a little creativity and know how, we have the capacity to command the attention of a word-wide audience.

I don't even have to close my eyes to imagine the kind of mileage Jamaica could get if we have a camera crew travelling around the island and recording our cherished landmarks to package as a backdrop for a meet like the Racers Grand Prix. I am sure it would create a greater impact that just the bland, 'sun, sea and sun' adverts we now use on television.

global stars

It should be interesting to note that track and field is not the only event we could package and sell to the international market as we have global stars in any sports such as cricket, netball and even motor sports. And where we don't have the stars, such as in golf, we still have some of the most gorgeous facilities in the world.

As I begin to get myself prepared mentally for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Racers Grand Prix has answered one of the very important questions that I have been asking myself and that is, "can Usain Bolt take home the sprint double for a third time in Rio? And, happily, I think the answer is a resounding, 'Yes.'

In fact, something is telling me that Bolt is not only going to win in Rio but that the 100m and 200m world records are poised to come tumbling down. If the star athlete can stumble at the start of the 100m and still run 9.88 going away, I believe that once he gets a decent start, 9.56 and 19.19 will both be former world records.

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