Jamaican heroes feted in Kingston

(IAAF) Jamaica is enjoying a series of events to officially recognise the achievements of their athletes at the Beijing Olympic Games.

jamaica heroes

Thousands mobbed the Jamaican team in Kingston. Photo: AP

Six weeks after their athletes achieved their greatest ever Olympic medal tally of 11 medals – six gold, three silver and two bronze – the government showed their appreciation of the athletes in special celebrations.

The celebrations kicked off on Friday as the athletes were paraded through the streets of Kingston on the backs of flat bed trucks as thousands lined the route which began at Norman Manley International Airport, to get a view of their sporting heroes.

The entire team was then feted at a gala fund-raising dinner at the impressive Strawberry Hills complex just outside of Kingston, dubbed ‘Dining with the stars, under the stars’.

The trucks carrying the athletes in the parade were decorated with the national colours of green, black and gold as well as large photos of the athletes.

Television stations showed replays of the track and field finals from the Olympics, while radio stations gave live updates of the procession along the route.

The scenes of rejoicing were similar to those witnessed when triple gold medallist Usain Bolt arrived home a month ago, with thousands abandoning whatever they were doing to line the sides of the roads, to such an extent that the free flow of traffic was prevented at major road intersections. Many of the supporters waved national flags while others were dressed in the national colours.

A number of Jamaican medal winners were on Saturday given national awards at a civic ceremony held at the national stadium.

Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown, as well as former world 100 metres record holder Asafa Powell, were awarded the Order of Jamaica – Commander Class.

Shelly-Ann Fraser, Melaine Walker, and relay runners Michael Frater, Nesta Carter, and Dwight Thomas, and hurdlers Danny McFarlane and Brigitte Foster-Hylton were also honoured with the Order of Jamaica – Officer Class.

Additionally coach Glen Mills, 1976 Olympic Champion Donald Quarrie, and Howard Aris, President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association were also honoured with the Order of Jamaica by the government.

Saturday’s function was one of two at the national stadium which included a spectacular gala at which all the athletes were presented to a crowd of close to 20,000 cheering fans.

Each of the female medal winners were paraded into the stadium in varying modes of transportation, 100m silver medalist Sherone Simpson in a vintage MG sportscar and 100m and 200m winners Fraser and Campbell-Brown in hand drawn carriages pulled by bare-chested body builders!

Additionally, looking to the future of the sport, several junior athletes including World Junior 100m champion Dexter Lee, World Junior bronze medallist Yohan Blake and World Junior championship relay silver medallist Jura Levy were all handed symbolic batons by Fraser, Powell and Bolt respectively.

The Jamaican team were making visits to their high schools yesterday and today and will be paraded from Montego Bay to Falmouth, home of Bolt and 200m runner Marvin Anderson. The events end on tomorrow with another gala at the Trelawny Multi-purpose stadium.