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Divided Loyalties


AT AROUND 9.50 pm tonight (August 5), eight competitors, including the world’s fastest man Jamaican Usain Bolt and his fierce competitor Yohan Blake, will have an Olympic showdown that will capture the attention of millions of people in the UK and around the world.

As the moment of the Men’s 100m final draws ever closer, I have seen people showing their patriotism in speech, in jewellery and in the bold colours of their outfits.

Watching them, I get the sense that it is becoming increasingly important to people to boldly state their allegiance.

I see a variety of colours littered across the streets, whether black, green and gold of Jamaica, the blue, red and white of Great Britain or the United States and the red, black and white of Trinidad and Tobago.

Yet for some Londoners like myself the 100m finals will present a struggle to align. My mother’s side of the family are Jamaican, whilst my father’s side is Trinidadian and I am British.

There are clear signs that many people have already chosen their champions in this race; For example, as a Jamaican, whether you’re supporting reigning champion Bolt or young challenger to the throne Blake, the main aim is a gold medal for Jamaica.

With Jamaica celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence tomorrow (August 6), its citizens and well wishers are already praying they will hear their national anthem echoing across the Olympic Stadium as the island’s flag is raised.

Other islands have their hopes too. Many Bajans hope Ramon Gittens will cause an upset, or perhaps as a fan of the sheer beauty of the American men’s team you may be willing Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin to spoil the party.

Let’s not forget we’re in London and perhaps home advantage is what is needed to boost the previously banned Dwain Chambers to medal redemption.

Where do I fit in to all this building anticipation? Do I feel more Jamaican because I live with my mother? Trinidadian because my Indian roots are clearly encompassed in my features? Or British because I was born and bred here? Voicing support for one team in front of the wrong parent can result in a few dirty looks for sure.

My situation is far from unique and some in similar situations pick the country they feel closest to, whilst others select the country most likely to make the podium. Some believe I should support the country I was born in and to do otherwise is a betrayal.

I believe the best way to handle a heritage dilemma is to be objective. Going by the times set at world championships and back in Beijing, I’m willing Bolt to defend his title as a great sportsman and as a sports personality that is endearing and inspirational.

As a Jamaican, I won’t pretend a Jamaican 1, 2 and 3 on the podium would not elate me beyond belief, but as a Trinidadian I share the desire held by many other countries to remind the world that the Caribbean has other sprinting nations.

No one would be happier than myself to see Richard Thompson come away with a medal of any colour, replicating the 100m gold success of Hasley Crawford in 1976. As for team GB, it’s our games and I’m so proud of the show we’ve managed to put on for the world so far. I want us to show the world what we’re made of and that the host nation can challenge in the biggest race of the games.

When the starting gun goes off communities and countries will gather, head to toe in the colours of our nations the screams will erupt, the ground will shake and in less than ten seconds the victor will cross the line in front of billions.

So what will I be doing on August 5th at 9:50pm?

I will be on my feet in front of the nearest television screen wearing my T&T jewellery, my Jamaican headscarf and my GB wristband. The way I see the men’s 100m final is as an opportunity to show the diversity of my heritage and while there can only be one winner on Sunday I can be certain I’ll be celebrating no matter the result.

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