Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jamaica and the Olympics

I think I saw the most exciting event in the whole Olympics tonight.  It was the 4 X 100 meter relay race.  The race was dead even between the U.S. and Jamaica all the way up until the last leg of the race, when Usain Bolt took the baton.  He and the American runner (I can't remember his name, ironically) were running stride for stride at the beginning of their leg, but then Bolt showed his superiority and pulled ahead, proving yet again that he is without a doubt the fastest man to have ever walked the face of the earth.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Jamaica.  I've spent two months of my life in that small country over the span of four years.  I made a lot of friends there, including one good friend that I still talk to today, who encourages me all the time in my spiritual walk.  My time spent in Jamaica has been significantly formative for me, emotionally and spiritually (and even physically, as I have a two inch long scar on the back of my head after cracking my head open on a flight of stairs during one of my trips...but that's another story).  I could fill a separate blog with stories and reflections from my time in Jamaica.  That's how big it was for me.

I also have a special appreciation for the preeminence of the Olympic games in the hearts and minds of the Jamaican people.  The people of Jamaica don't have national sports or teams like we do in the U.S. (although now that I think about it, they might have a cricket team), so when they get a shot at the international spotlight, the whole country takes notice.  Literally.  Ever seen the movie "Cool Runnings"?  That movie does a great job of accurately portraying how important the olympics are to Jamaicans.

During my first trip to Jamaica in 1996 the Olympics were being held in Atlanta, Georgia.  I remember sitting on the couch of Gerald Brown and watching some of the track races with him.  He was eating popcorn and staring intently at the TV as his countrymen represented him and his country.  He was sitting on the edge of his seat the entire time.  During one race, he actually stood up and jumped up and down several times while shouting, "Go Jamaica, go Jamaica, go Jamaica!" several times.  Put simply, Jamaicans love the Olympics.

I was really delighted four years ago to see Usain Bolt break records and win races, if for no other reason than that I knew the Jamaican people were going crazy.  I don't think anyone medaled when I was in Jamaica in 96, and the atmosphere was electric then.  I can only imagine what it was like in 2008, and now in 2012, as I think Jamaica has actually done better this year than they did in Bei Jing.

Only one thing bugs me, though, and that is that Bolt seems to be somewhat of an arrogant athlete with a huge head.  He's the best, and he'll tell you that to your face, as he's done several times throughout this Olympics.  As Bob Costas said tonight, "Nobody thinks more highly of Usain Bolt than he does of himself."  It got me reflecting on James 4.6, which is never a bad thing.  We just read through this passage last night in our small group.

Anyway, here's to the people of Jamaica and the celebration they've been having for the past two weeks.

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