Western Grandstand : Statues yes, but only for exceptional feats

October 15, 2016
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Jamaica's Asafa Powell (right) and Usain Bolt celebrate winning gold in the men's 4 x 100-metre relay final, during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday, August 19. (AP Photo)

Western Bureau:

I have no difficulty with the Government's decision to spend the $82 million that has been earmarked to honour the athletes who represented Jamaica with distinction at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They really did us proud on the biggest stage in global sports.

In fact, I found the overall package announced by Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, the minister of sports, culture, gender affairs and entertainment, a most welcome departure from the lip service we have grown accustomed to over recent years, where lofty promises became empty promises.

However, while I am all for the monetary component of the package, I am a little bit concerned about the plan to erect statues to immortalise some of the athletes. While it's true that the designated athletes have served us well over a protracted period, I am not satisfied that they have all made the kind of impact that would merit a statue.

I believe a statue should be reserved for the so-called 'out of this world' achievement, such as Usain Bolt's nine gold-medal tally in three consecutive Olympic Games, which is wrapped around three world records, which is a feat that is unlikely to be ever duplicated.

While some might argue with some amount of justification that Asafa Powell, the undisputed sub-10 king; Veronica Campbell-Brown, a champion on the global stage at both the junior and senior levels; and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won two 100 metres Olympic titles, are just as deserving as former greats Merlene Ottey and Donald Quarrie, who had statues in their honour, I believe Ottey and Quarrie qualified not only because they were high achievers, but more so because they were illustrious pacesetters.

If one were to embrace the line of reasoning that every significant personal milestone for a track athlete should be given iconic status, then our first female Olympic gold medallist, 400m hurdler Deon Hemmings, whose achievement cannot be erased, would be an ideal candidate for a statue in her honour.

Without seeking to diminish the achievement of the athletes, I believe the 'statue' bar should be set so high that it only persons with performances that rank them among the best of all times should be considered. If it takes nothing more than just winning a bunch of medals to get a statue, based on our capacity to churn out top-class athletes, before long, statues will no longer be seen as a big deal.




In fact, if we were to use the track and field standard in other sporting disciplines, the likes of Lawrence Rowe, the first man to score a double-century (214) and a single century (100 not out) in his first Test match; and fellow cricket legend Courtney Walsh, the leading all-time wicket-taker for the West Indies (519 wickets) in test cricket; football legend, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, the only Jamaican to score two goals in a World Cup game; and boxer Michael McCallum, Jamaica's first world champion, would all be live candidates for statues.

Instead of going the statue route for those athletes who have served well but who have not attained icon status, I believe we would be better served by naming schools and sporting facilities in their home parish in their honour. I believe it would better serve as a source of motivation to, especially, the youngsters, who are badly in need of positive role models with whom they can identify.

I believe the statues should be reserved for those athletes who have created the kind of impact that can rival Bob Marley's accomplishments in music globally, Marcus Garvey's universal respect as a champion in the fight against injustice; and Bolt, who stands supreme as the greatest sportsman the world has ever seen.

However, should the Government decide to go along with the four-statue plan, I would have no quarrel with Sports Minister Grange because I have no reason to believe that her intentions are less than honourable. Hopefully, whatever is done will be a source of inspiration to all Jamaicans.

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