THE PARTY IS OVER AND RIO IS THE WINNER BUT THE FAVELAS THE LOSER

The stadium is now cleared of spectators. Volunteers and stadium staff are earnestly preparing to strike the big set. Some are tired, others are sitting restlessly trying to catch a breath after the amazing show.
Rehearsals have been done over and over again, starting over a year ago. The glitches, the demotivated that did not attend rehearsals and the numerous calls to do it “once again” all are now indelible memories of the journey getting to where the team wanted to be. It was, in fact, the best part of the Olympics, the preparation. 
It would not have been a true Brazil Olympics without the brand Brazil is known for, Carnival. The opening ceremonies did its due homage to the birth of this great country, but the closing was authentic Brazil and the performances were all testament to this gospel. 

The show could be easily placed next to the other best in show, China, as the most memorable. The one thing Brazil wanted the world to take aŵay is this – problems there are but the land is green, the sun continues to shine and the people know how to throw a party. Brazil pulled off sports largest party, the 31st Olympiad. 

Months, weeks even days before the opening the media spun its web of doubt. Infested water, a mosquito named Zika and of course the unloved cousin named crime, were reported to threaten the lives of those planning to attend. Few athletes took the bait and refused to attend. Countries brought additional luggage purely packed with repellents and water, enough to give every team member and every family in the favela, packets to last a month. 

Brazil was in fact dusted by the world media as the country plagued by pestilence and if you go, you do so on your own peril. Brazil was humiliated even before the first plane landed with their guests. The political strife did not help either as their President was facing a political earthquake she is hoping to survive. 

The process to creating this ubiquitous event of glitz and glamour was bumpy. In cases where the State needed land it was the residents of the favela that paid the price. A country daunted by millions of its people living below an already low poverty line, basic services seemed to be curtailed in favor of satisfying the wealthy sponsors and the many affluent citizens of Rio. Choices made were not equitable and people of the favela excercised the only power they have, the power to protest. 

It sent a message loud and clear as delays and sabotage prevented time schedules of spaces for the Olympics to be completed on time. Brazil pressed on, facing their realities and a deadline as the World was coming. A visibly shaking President of the Organizing Committee Carlos Nuzman was a happy man. In his closing speech, he declared the games would be one the people of Brazil can look back and be proud of for generations to come.
In a way, I think he is correct. The games did not lack any excitement or drama. There were many highs and as expected many lows. There were 27 World records and 90 Olympic records at the Rio 2016 games. 
The outstanding athletes Phelps of the US, Farah of the UK and Bolt of Jamaica were the stars of the games. There were other memorable moments as well too numerous to mention but for Brazil the sweet moment was the revenge victory over rival Germany for the gold medal in the beloved sport Soccer. Karma was so sweet an ale on the lips of the Brazilians. 

The lows were as low as they could go and the three that will be etched in the history of Rio2016 Games were the public refusal of the Israeli athlete to shake the hand of his Palestinian competitor and the blond athlete from the US that claimed he and fellow athletes were robbed at gun point when upon investigating the incident , was determined to be false, very false.


The other low point was the visible empty seats in the massive 70,000 seat Olympic stadium except for when Bolt was attending and the 80,000 Maracana stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. No director wants to see empty seats. It says a lot about the planning of the event. If I were the director, I would have filled those seats with the people next door the Maracana. The favelas had thousands of people standing above their shanty roof top houses, that would have given an arm even a leg to be in the stadium. I think the organizers and the government lost an opportunity there. 

Every event has its drama and the event ghosts are always around determined to distract and displace every possible decision taken. Brazil faced their truth and stood back up on their feet 1 million times as much as they were knocked down 1 million times. For this Brazil can be proud. Nothing is more satisfying than to do something that your haters say you cannot.

I think Brazil had the last laugh. They can laugh at the doubters and be assured that the City of Rio has been tested and passed every test imaginable. The final test for Rio and Brazil is the test of conversion and innovation of the many facilities to serve its people. 
This will be its hardest challenge. I hope they face it with the same resolve as they did to open the games. Fairy tales they are but the land is green, the sun shines and the people not only can throw a party, they now have facilities that will move their people and country from being a great Brazil to an even greater Brazil. 
(C) 2016. Kwesi. All Rights Reserved. 

JAMAICA WILL NEVER BE A USA

Jamaica-Flag-Wallpaper

I recently read an article that Jamaica’s economic woes are tied to the “culture” of the people. Let me quote the writer:

.”it does not matter which political party is in power, our success will have dismal limitations. It does not matter how many loans we can access from the International Monetary Fund and multilateral institutions, it will just be for the purpose of feeding our insatiable appetite of instant gratification. It does not matter how many graduates we turn out from our universities, because the economy, in its limping impotence, will not be able to marshal a workforce to absorb them. Culture matters and it is a definitive difference between countries that are prosperous and countries that are not.”

With comparison to the USA the writer was drawing attention  that the difference in culture between the two countries was directly related to their individual success. Let me first agree with something the writer has alluded to and that is one has to develop a culture of success, aggressive leadership, and strong fortitude to achieve success. But where the writer is incorrect in their analogy is  aaligning the lack of success to a seemingly lackadaisical cultural lifestyle, a lifestyle stereotypically Jamaican. 

Every human wants to succeed, There is no human that calls himself a human that does not have that ingrained in his DNA. Which human , with all senses intact, will tell you he is a failure? Who will tell you he is bad at what he does? I have not met that human as yet. Jamaica’s economic problem is among other things , directly pinned to a lack of leadership, clarity of vision and the natural instinct of Jamaicans to think that anything foreign is better than what they have. It is  inextricably pinned to the lack of quality education denied to the masses of the people for various reasons. It is troubling but it is no different from the USA, the difference is Jamaica is smaller so the problem is heightened.

A country the size of Jamaica has a “brain drain” problem and ever since the big departure in the early 80s it has been the cancer that eats at Jamaica’s economic recovery.  Then Prime Minister Manley invited Jamaicans to leave on flights to Miami and they granted his wish. That educated culture  left the country to develop the USA and other countries.

Education breeds an informed and a more refined culture. Culture is not a singular lifestyle unto itself. It is the daughter of a refined and educated mind. If you were to agree totally with the writer then how do you explain the success of our  athletes in the international arena? How do you explain the many other success achieved by Jamaicans in every discipline of life both here and abroad?  I disagree with the writer. Jamaica’s culture is as strong as the US and they want the dream, not necessarily the American dream, but a dream of a quality of life that they can enjoy in Jamaica. No Jamaican living abroad and I mean none, do not aspire and want to come back home to live their last years in  Jamaica. 

Our woes are big and seems to be in the forefront as Jamaica enjoys a high-profile, ironically because of  its culture, yes the same culture that everyone,  including the US , is trying to emulate. We cannot hold the country responsible for  who the people are? Jamaica is who it is. It will never be a US, but it can enjoy the quality of life similar to the US. Jamaicans are not driven by the same morals or ideals as Americans , but they share the word that is sweet on the lips of those that experience it – and that is SUCCESS. Jamaica’s wish to succeed is far greater than fear itself. The writer obviously has limited knowledge that the freedom of fear is also a part of our culture. Success is not final. It is a living thing that keeps on going as long as the believer holds on to his dreams and move towards it .  

An educated culture breeds success but to blame our “culture” solely for the inefficiency and backwardness of the economy is like saying the US immigration is responsible for its crime. No one should be so short-sighted.

Paul Tomlinson © 2014

Here is the letter in its entirety. Feel free to leave your comments.

USA and JA — a difference in culture

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Editor,

If it were in Jamaica that President Barack Obama was running for a second term, say, as prime minister, he would not have been voted back into office, given the slow pace of the economic recovery he has presided over for the past four years. Although he did not create the dismal economic problems in the first place, he would’ve been soundly defeated at the polls for the sheer reason that our culture is one of instant gratification. We want it here; we want it all and we want it now.

For those who reject the idea that culture has a lot to do with economic prosperity, this is a lesson we should not neglect to learn, and a revelation to purposefully observe. Let me quote my favourite Jamaican journalist, Ian Boyne here: “I am one of those who believe that economic development cannot be divorced from culture; or at least that culture either advances or hinders economic development. I have no doubt that some of our cultural proclivities are inimical to economic development; so no matter which party is in power, we continue to stagnate. It’s not just our corruption. Other countries experiencing corruption grow (China, India and Russia are prime examples).”

Despite 20 million Americans still without jobs today, and although Mitt Romney touts a relatively excellent résumé in business, Americans took the long view, and invested their vote in steady progress, not instant and ephemeral results. They rewarded the president for making significant incremental progress, however slow the pace. What is the difference? Culture. Americans think in terms of what is best for their children and grandchildren. They will give up today’s cash for tomorrow’s certain post-dated cheque. The American culture emphasises wealth creation and long-term rewards, and as a result, their politicians are forced to think long-term rather than in election cycles. Jamaica, please take note: politicians will lift their game when their constituents lift the standard of their expectations and demand the available best.

It is my considered opinion that our best leaders have not yet emerged at the podium of national leadership and the reason is because our culture does not accommodate or embrace what they have to offer to this dying country. They are instead forced to dangle on the under-achievement line of mediocrity or migrate to cultures where the work ethic and durable success are far superior to ours. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a prosperous country is that the future takes precedence over the here and now. The American dream, for example, is not about pursuing a loaf of bread for today’s hunger, it is the pursuit of owning the bakery. Owning the bakery requires strategic planning, goal setting, sacrifices, smart work, delayed gratification, and discipline.

Therefore, it does not matter which political party is in power, our success will have dismal limitations. It does not matter how many loans we can access from the International Monetary Fund and multilateral institutions, it will just be for the purpose of feeding our insatiable appetite of instant gratification. It does not matter how many graduates we turn out from our universities, because the economy, in its limping impotence, will not be able to marshal a workforce to absorb them. Culture matters and it is a definitive difference between countries that are prosperous and countries that are not.

Laval Wilkinson

DRUGS IN SPORTS- Take my Skin, not my Blood

DRUGS IN SPORTS- Take my Skin, not my Blood

Journalist Michael Grant has written an interesting piece on the global reaction and effect the latest doping news has on Jamaica’s reputation and the sports. I wrote my comments to his piece. I open the discussion to hear your point of view as well.

My Response…..

Good angle the writer has chosen . Fair enough we must await the results of the investigation before rushing to  judgement which is a constant human flaw. Seems to me that athletes are by nature prisoners in their sports as the list of items they CANNOT ingest gets bigger every day.

Question is what role is  WADA playing to educate and help the athletes as this writer fairly ask? Playing the gotcha game seems to me more of a gestapo organization than one that works with the athletes. So what is the WADA  charter? Is it to KILL or PROTECT? They will tell you they protect and play its role in educating the athlete. Have you seen the banned list of substances? If these athletes fall sick, they had  better pray or fast.

My belief is this – sure WADA is there to ‘protect’ the image of the sport especially since the East Germans and the US have shown it necessary to do so. But make no mistake its not clean as a whistle as one would hope it to be. Why? Because it is set up by the very people whose long term goal is to garner fame for their country while killing any one that challenges the status quo. Jamaica has dared to challenge the status quo so it is not surprising the reaction from WADA and other doubting Thomas’s.

The line that defines what is legal and what isn’t is as vast as the differences of people that make up WADA. The athletes will be best served if one of their own is directing that agency because when there is an infraction at least WADA won’t take their blood and skin, only their skin.

What are your thoughts on WADA and drugs in sports?