By: Basil Wilson
For two weeks in August, most of the nations of the world were pre-occupied with the 30th Olympics held in the former imperial capital, London. The Olympics generate a healthy form of nationalism. Certainly NBC in its prime time coverage took this to an extreme. As in previous years, NBC covered the Olympics focused largely on the performance of American athletics. The rest of the athletics field only served as fodder for the aggrandizement of the American athlete.
The British, who have a more extensive imperial tradition than the Americans, cover the Olympics with more class. They do give some special treatment to British athletes but in essence they cover the totality and provide a comprehensive coverage. Background is given on the competing performers and they transcend any naked attempt to engage in vulgar-nationalism. NBC needs to grow up and be more magnanimous.
At the end of the 30th Olympics, the United States emerged with the most medals. The United States won 46 gold and a total medal count of 104. America’s rival in the world, China, won 38 gold and a total of 88 medals. Russia was third with 82 medals and the host of the Olympics, Great Britain, ended up with 65 medals and Germany with a total of 44.
There is quite an array of events at the Olympics and something of a division of excellence as to which countries tend to predominate in particular events. Developing countries do not have the resources to compete in the more exotic water sports. The Chinese and the Americans dominate diving. Even though the Australians were disappointed in their showing, traditionally they and the Americans have always dominated in swimming events.
In soccer at this Olympics, no European team qualified for the semi-finals even though the Olympics were staged in a European capital. Brazil got to the final but Mexico thwarted them from the coveted Olympic gold.
Americans have fallen from grace in the world of boxing. They only obtained gold in the women’s middleweight class that was held for the first time in the Olympics. The Eastern European countries have been quite visible in the art of pugilism in recent Olympics.
In the world of the Olympics, it is track and field that captures the imagination of the excitable world community. Even in track there is a fascinating division of excellence. The distance races are controlled by East Africans, Ethiopians and North Africans. Many of those who won medals for European countries are adoptees from North or East Africa.
From Jesse Owens emerged as a world class sprinter in the 1936 Olympics held in Germany, African-Americans have exercised hegemony in track and field sprinting events. But in this new age of dope testing, African-American male sprinters have been pushed aside by Jamaican and other Caribbean sprinters.
The African-American women were outstanding in the London Olympics as they demonstrated their class in the 4 x 100 relay by setting a new world record formerly held by the East Germans. It was always suspected that East German competitors were not competing on a level running track. Felix who won the 200 women’s final and was part of the record-breaking 4 x 100 squad and the winning 4 x 400 quartet certainly had a triumphant Olympics.
The Caribbean male sprinters are emerging as a regional force. The nineteen year old Grenadian quarter miler, Kirani James, repeated his world championship feat in London by winning the 400 meters. Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic took the silver and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad took the bronze. Americans were nowhere to be seen but that absence was accentuated by injury.
The American male sprinters, Gay, Gatlin, and Spearmon are now confined to the Olympian sunset. Jamaica finished one, two, and three in the 200 meters. Gold and silver was expected of Bolt and Blake but Weir was remarkable in earning a bronze after only recently converted from a hurdler to 200 sprinter. Gatlin managed a bronze in the 100 as he was overpowered by the lightning of Bolt and the thunder of Blake. The Americans earned the silver.
The match-up in the 4 x 100 between the Americans and the Jamaicans was a great finale for the Olympic Stadium in London. Frater, Carter, Blake and Bolt set a new world record that was set in Beijing in 2008.
The Caribbean has quite a track record of outstanding sprinters. In previous Olympics, Hasely Crawford and Otto Bolton have shown their sprinting prowess. Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley won gold and silver in the 400 in the 1948 London games. Rhoden and McKenley won gold and silver in Helsinki in 1952. The world breaking team of Laing, Wint, McKenley and Rhoden destroyed the field in 1952 in the 4 x 400. Billy Miller and Donald Quarrie kept that flame burning in the 1970s and 1980s.
The performance of Jamaican male and female athletes in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London will not be easily replicated in Rio in 2016. Jamaica has produced a track and field legend in the form of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, both winning gold in the 100 in successive Olympics. Yohan Blake has not yet achieved his full potential. The acquisition of four gold, four silver and four bronze in the 2012 Olympics is a tribute to the high level of coaching, Boys and Girls Champs and the integrated nature of the organizational structure that has been institutionalized from the post World War 11 period. Jamaica has demonstrated to the world that a small Caribbean nation of 2.8 million people is capable of enduring greatness.