Jamaica Gleaner / As nice as the Usain Bolt statue is, there’s reason to believe that more honours await the incomparable one in this land of wood and water. After all, he is the greatest sprinter of all time. For many, he’s in the reckoning for the title of best track and field athlete ever.
When one man wins six individual Olympic gold medals and seven individual gold medals at the World Championships and sets five individual world records, he isn’t normal. Yet the statue has become the normal method of honouring our greats. So it stands to reason that we need to flex a little more muscle for Bolt. Some of those greats who went before him have schools and roads named after them. For example, we drive to the National Stadium on Arthur Wint Drive and children study at Merlene Ottey High School.
Permanent honours like those are well deserved, but given that, how should Jamaica honour the greatest Jamaican athlete of all time? Two years ago, in this space, the suggestion was made that the North Coast Highway should be named in Bolt’s honour. That roadway runs across the island and, like Bolt, touches the lives of almost every Jamaican. It’s as magnificent as he has been.
Such a thing wouldn’t be unprecedented. When Hasely Crawford edged Donald Quarrie to win the 100 metres at the 1976 Olympic Games, Trinidad and Tobago named an aircraft from its national airline after him. Later, our friends from the twin-island republic named their national stadium after Crawford too.
The same has happened in St Kitts and Nevis and in Grenada. The National Stadiums there have been named for Kim Collins, the 2003 World 100 champion, and Kirani James, the World and Olympic 400-metre gold medal winner, respectively. There’s a highway named in Collins’ honour too.
Bolt bigger Bolt towers above them all.
He was more than just a grim-faced running machine. In addition to his undeniable speed, he put Jamaica on the map by dancing, joking and smiling his way into the hearts of millions. Born into the age of mobile communications, he beamed the best of Jamaica into living rooms and into handheld computer gadgets the world over.
He talked to them personally and often pointed to the word on his singlet – JAMAICA.
Until he came along, Jamaicans travelling abroad would most often be asked about Bob Marley and the Honourable Herb. Now the first query from admiring overseas hosts is about Bolt. Hopefully, the nation will put him to work in promoting our business interests far and wide.
Sweden opens Chinese wallets with the help of retired table tennis icon Jan-Ove Waldner. Bolt is as famous all around the world as J-O is in China. Surely, his presence can open doors.
In the meantime, as beautiful as the statue is, it wouldn’t be out of order to honour the tall man with something more: his name on the highway that runs past his hometown of Falmouth from one end of the island to the other.
n Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.