On Saturday, February 25th, I had the great privilege and wonderful experience of attending the Gibson Relays. This is the 36th annual holding of this event; a track meet that is anticipated for an entire year and attended by Jamaicans of all walks and regions. It is truly a national celebration of sport. The entire event is planned and implemented by volunteers, many of them returning for decades. Incredible.
Again, the story is in the pictures . . .
This is my CUSO fellow volunteer, Tim, on the left, and Mr. Errol Greene on the right. Mr. Greene is on the board of my placement and is also the volunteer Security Head for the Gibson Relays. We have had many meetings together, he is a most delightful person, and provided two tickets to the VVIP section at the relays. When we got there we were upgraded to the "royal box", which we shared with the Custos of Kingston/St. Andrew, the Minister of Sport, and Donovan Bailey.
Here we are in the athletes' staging area, where Mr. Greene introduced us to all of the teams, including the Canadian track club from Ontario, "The Flying Angels", who were very successful.
The "under 10 year old boys" holding hands on their way to the 60 metre shuttle. This was a highlight of the event, with 32,000 fans on their feet! You should see these little lads run. It was also a highlight for me.
The National Stadium is in a very beautiful setting on the hills of Kingston with the Blue Mountains as background. Those were the cheap seats in the afternoon, though they filled up quickly as the premier events began in the evening.
On the right, leading the final leg of the 4 x 100 is Yohan Blake. He took his team from third to first. Such a privilege to see such talent in person. Pictures do not do the experience justice.
The Jamaican version of popcorn and peanuts.
Was thrilled to see Donovan Bailey arrive in the "royal box" for the premiere events. Mr. Greene introduced us and we had a lovely chat. I said to Donovan, rather innocently and excited, "Did you see those 10 year old boys?!" He looked a me knowingly and said, "I was one of them."
No wonder a small, island nation of 2.8 million produces an incredible number of world class track athletes - all of Jamaica supports them!
The crowd is on its feet for the finals of every event and the roar is deafening! They have their favourites, but they celebrate all participants. You truly have to be there to share the experience. In years past, I have been involved in athletics at the national level - the Canada Games - but never could have imagined this passion and exuberance for developing athletes.
'Tis a memory of a lifetime.
The next Jamaican relay team to win the worlds. They are waiting, but methinks not for long.