Jamaica’s athletics successes and the international response

The Jamaican sprinters had sounded the alarm bells and four years later in Helsinki they did what was expected of them by winning the 4 x 400m relay with the combination of Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden and Leslie Laing. At the Olympics McKenley also placed second in the 100m and once more took the silver in the 400m, again to a fellow Jamaican athlete, George Rhoden. Wint was again second in the 800m to Whitfield.
To his credit, Herb McKenley is the lone athlete to have made the finals of the Olympics in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
The stage set, the Jamaicans have since ensured that they maintain their place in international athletics.
Through the years we have witnessed the track supremacy of the Jamaicans and the ease with which they began to rival the Cubans for the top spot in the Caribbean. In the latter years we have witnessed the decline in the Cuban achievements at the international level in track and field athletics.
At the recently concluded Beijing Olympics the Jamaicans delivered their best ever showing with seven gold out of a total of 11 medals. More, the MVP track club of Stephen Francis was responsible for four of the several of the medals won, a vindication of the organisation’s commitment to the development of the sport and point the country in new direction regarding homegrown athletes and the establishment of professional clubs.

Of course there were times when the Jamaicans disappointed the region. Success at the international allowed Jamaica to enjoy a place of privilege in the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), now the International Association of Athletics Federations. The country was placed in the second tier in respect of the number of votes enjoyed at Congresses of the organisation. Thus, when the smaller islands of the region persuaded the North American, Central American and Caribbean Area to vote for a change at the IAAF to one country, one vote, it was not surprising that the Jamaicans saw this as depleting their perceived political power which they had earned by successes on the track and therefore voted against the decision. They were supported by the US. The IAAF’s leadership at the time, Primo Nebiolo, saw the winds of change and supported the smaller nations much to the chagrin of the Jamaicans, the US and several European nations.
Of course there are some who would argue that to this day the Jamaicans remain vividly upset at this decision and seem to think that it is belittling to be accorded the same voting rights as the smaller athletics federations across the world. This of course may well be deemed consistent with the Jamaican stance regarding the ill-fated West Indian Federation.