I AM not surprised that the present controversy surrounding the parading of the Ugandan flag at Boys and Girls Champs by a foreign athlete has gone as far as it has.
No, it hasn’t happened before, but now that it has, it needs to be addressed. ISSA is the regulatory body for this event and should in consultation with JAAA take decisive action to ensure that there is not a repeat of this.
Taking nothing away from the glory moment of an obviously talented and exuberant young athlete, the school that he represented, needs to also have a sit down chat with him to explain the sensitivity of such action in the future. Proper protocol must be observed.
Despite having the undivided attention of the track world globally each year, Boys and Girls Champs is not an international event. This is our wow moment in local track, a shout out to the rest of the world that we can produce the kind of high level performances that we do on a constant basis, and it keeps getting better. We keep setting world age group records.
Of course the outside world is ever in a state of wonderment and head scratching. Maybe concerned that one day we may find the resources to produce giants in other areas of track and field and take over the sport completely.
They want a part of it before it gets away from them. They want to know what we are doing differently and what they can gain from us to improve their own athletes’ performances. They want to tap into our coaching reserves.
We now have not just high school athletes but international athletes coming here to benefit from our coaching and high level of local, internal competitiveness. Nothing wrong with them using our product but they must be made to pay for it. We have a good and highly marketable product, but the export of it needs to be properly regulated.
In recent years we have seen an influx of foreign students coming here at the high school level. What are we seeing really? This could be an attempt by other countries to utilize our product without having to pay for it. Jamaican high schools do not offer “track scholarships” to international students. Nonetheless like this young man, the likes of Delano Williams et al, have benefited from our high level of education at the high school level, as well as the best coaching in the world, then gone on to represent Great Britain and other countries. He is Caribbean born and a British subject like we are, which makes most of us a bit more tolerant and magnanimous, but what of someone all the way from the African continent?
Of course, eligibility for him could be because of Jamaican parentage/heritage, or that his parents have become permanent residents in our island nation. I know nothing of this young man so I will not hazard a guess at his true situation, but there is always the possibility that some friend of a friend of his family simply provided a hook up so he could come here to benefit from our programmes. This in itself would not benefit us as a nation at all. This is where JAAA should intervene with a view to protecting our product and ensure that this is cut short before we start to bleed.
Our athletes overseas competing under another country’s flag have to take steps to legitimize themselves in that country. The same should be true in our nation. This flag parade can have some real negative twists if not regulated.
Of course, on the other hand, there is one good thing to be derived from having athletes from the African continent competing here. They are traditionally long distance runners, an area in which Jamaica has not really been a factor to date. There could be something to be gained, as our more astute coaches get a chance to look into their style and habits to see if it’s something that our long distance runners could emulate and benefit from.
For those people who have been arguing that Jamaicans proudly parade their flags at Penn Relays in the United States and it has not been a problem, might I remind you that Penn Relays is an international event and have sections where national teams compete against each other. Winners at that level freely parade their country’s flags. High schools competing as such, parade their school colours, wherever they are from…..as it should be.
Proper protocol must be observed, or we are going to end up in a mass of confusion. Whereas, it may seem to be nothing much and not such a big deal right now, it can have serious repercussions in the future. ISSA needs to now put something in place to prevent this happening again, without any form of punishment or penalty to this young man, who is simply not experienced enough to know better. I feel sorry for him, as because of a simple unintended indiscretion maybe borne out of his ignorance, his glory moment is now tarnished, and the hostilities directed at him may scar him for life. Poor guy.
By Ava Ramdeen – a former staff writer and subeditor of The Daily Gleaner ,The Jamaica Daily News, and Caribbean Life News in New York, as well as Managing Editor of the Caribbean Media Network 1995. Email feedback to [email protected] and [email protected]
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