Jamaica Gleaner / Usain Bolt is now most surely the greatest sprinter who has ever lived. Named among sporting greats such as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Pele, the Guardian newspaper calls him “a colossally potent figure in sport’s modern history”. For the rest of the world, Usain Bolt is an icon simply a legend.
How can Jamaica properly honour and truly celebrate the magnitude of the achievement of its latest global superstar?
Here are options that are open to the Jamaican authorities:
1. Make Usain Bolt a national hero: Without question, Bolt already is a national hero, but Jamaica must move to formally declare him so. Jamaica’s seven named national heroes collectively fought to secure our freedom from 400 years of British slavery, assisted in the early decolonisation movement, and/or were architects of modern Jamaica.
Usain Bolt is undoubtedly one of the heroes of the modern era. He stands on the backs of others equally deserving of national hero status such as Bob Marley, Michael Manley, and Louise Bennett. Jamaican authorities must provide the nation with historical continuity by immortalising contemporary achievers of greatness. It must give young people modern heroes to learn from and model.
Modern heroes such as Usain Bolt (as well as Bob Marley) have transformed the Jamaican society, compelling a new national self-confidence, nudging us to see ourselves differently, greater.
2. Depict Usain Bolt on Jamaican currency: Usain Bolt is deserving of recognition on Jamaican currency to reflect the athlete’s great impact on his nation and the world. A weak Jamaican currency notwithstanding, appearing on a bank note of one’s country is one of the greatest distinctions any citizen could get. I am unclear as to the Bank of Jamaica policy on who gets to be depicted on Jamaican currency. I believe, however, that this honour should be reserved for any Jamaican who actually makes a marked contribution to Jamaican development. US civil rights leader, Harriet Tubman recently broke the paper ceiling as the first African-American to be depicted on US currency.
3. Rename National Stadium in his honour: This is the place he began his sprinting career during Boys’ Championships and from which he catapulted into the world’s fastest man. The stadium should carry the name of Usain Bolt and also recognise, in other creative ways, the many legends of Jamaican athletics who have graced its track.
4. Erect a statue: As we seek to restore Jamaican monuments and unveil new ones that tell the story of the Jamaican people – about our history or struggles and our achievements – a statue of Usain Bolt is in order. I understand that a statue is currently in the works and is to be erected in the parish of his birth, Trelawny.
On a recent trip to South Africa earlier this year, I went to visit the 9m bronze statue of Nelson Mandela (weight 3.5 tons) which looms over Union Buildings (the political offices of the South African president) in Pretoria. It is a tourist attraction.
A statue of Usain Bolt (of this same size and magnitude) would be a constant reminder for Jamaica to always strive to maintain the Jamaican values that made Usain Bolt a success – perseverance, discipline, courage, and hard work.
5. Celebrate Usain Bolt Week: Usain Bolt can also be celebrated through Usain Bolt Week, which would stretch from the athlete’s birthday on August 21 to August 27 each year. This would be an occasion for Jamaican authorities to celebrate Jamaica’s sporting brand and unveil programmes to promote fitness and wellness.
6. Establish a National Sports Museum (with a special Usain Bolt exhibit): Finally, Jamaica’s unique contribution to international athletics should be articulated in a National Sports Museum, with a special Usain Bolt exhibit. This exhibit should include a robust catalogue of digital and physical artefacts honouring the life and work of the legendary sprinter – world and Olympic events, training, interviews with the athlete, his Jamaican teammates, his rivals, coaches, family, endorsers, etc. The exhibit should include official documents (tweets, emails, handwritten notes); personal belongings (such as gear Bolt would’ve used during each Olympics, etc); and photos and other articles that trace his journey from schoolboy to legend.
Usain Bolt is a symbol of Jamaica’s soft power and its enduring relevance in global sport. Bolt, therefore, deserves to be recognised for his stupendous contribution to the nation and the world.
– Dr Hume Johnson is a personal-brand consultant and professor of public relations at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, United States. Email feedback to [email protected] and [email protected] .
JAMAICA: Hume Johnson | Six ways to honour Bolt
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