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LONDON 2012 – A REVIEW by Keith Joseph

posted 15 Aug 2012, 19:58 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Aug 2012, 20:45 ]
Keith Joseph is the President of the track and field governing body in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
 
He is also the General Secretary of that country’s Olympic association. Keith is one of the most travelled members of International Association of Athletics Federations and the International Olympic Committee, sitting on committees at the highest level.
 

A sibling of the famous Joseph cycling brothers of 1960's and 1970's, Trinidad-born Keith Joseph has been instrumental in organising the NGC-sponsored Right on Track programme and having it set up in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada and Dominica, outside its home base in Trinidad.

The 30th edition of the summer Olympic Games of the modern era came to an end with a musical theatre performance by the British and a brief introduction by the Brazilians.

For the most part of the closing ceremony the athletes stood their ground in the Union Jack formation created deliberately by the organisers of the spectacle reminding the world of the hosts who were third time lucky enough to host this magnificent sporting event. 
 
The interspersing of aspects of the Games during the closing ceremony reminded the world of the tremendous achievements of the athletes, the reason for the Games’ existence although at times it did not always seem that way to many a delegation. 

The Games are done and the world now looks to Brazil for the 31st edition in 2016. Above everything else, the Games of London 2012 reminded us of the great divide between advanced and developing nations and their respective commitment to understanding, appreciating and advancing the role of sport in broader national development process. 

Stellar achievements 
 
During the 30th edition of the summer Olympics there were some achievements that left the international sports fraternity truly enthused at the capacity of mankind to press ahead with advancing our immense athletic potential. 

The world was treated to what is possible with the advances made in sport science and the complementarity of physical, psychological and social development of individual athletes once provided with the necessary finances to facilitate adequate access. It seems most opportune here to recall some of the most significant achievements at the recently concluded Olympic Games. 

Kirani James 
 
For the people of the Eastern Caribbean the most outstanding performance came from Grenada’s Kirani James before he turned the age of 20. Here is an individual who has won every title available to him with the exception of the IAAF’s World Indoors. He has been a winner of gold medals at the Carifta Games since he began competing in the Under 17 age category through to Under 20. He won the Commonwealth Youth 400m title, the World Youth and World Junior titles, the World Outdoor title and finally, the icing on the cake, the Olympic Games 400m gold medal. 
 
Form a country with a population of just over 100,000 James showed the world what is possible when sport is supported by a deliberate strategy on the part of the government to facilitate its integration in the broader national development strategy. 

James’ achievement however has been built on the foundation of Donald Pierre, the original and remarkable product of the fishing village of Gouyave in the parish of St John in Grenada, an athlete who contested from 100 metres through to the Marathon and who humiliatingly defeated the USA’s 400m champion at the Southern games in Trinidad in the 1970s. He also follows in the footsteps of Alleyne Francique who twice won the World Indoor 400m title and finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 2004. 

James has thus far shown a level of humility not usually associated with world champions. One hopes that his comes from his culture and does not change with further success. 

It is interesting to note that if we were to measure country performance at the Olympics in London on the basis of country size, Grenada would emerge by far the most successful, thanks to Kirani. 
 
Keshorn Walcott 
 
Trinidad and Tobago won its first Olympic gold medal in 1976 when Hasely Crawford demolished the field to win the 100 metre title in Montreal, Canada. Since then only Ato Boldon came close to equalling his achievement. 

It took a junior athlete, Keshorn Walcott, of Toco, one of the most remote parts of the country, 36 years after the Montreal Olympics, to win the country’s second Olympic gold medal. He won the Javelin throw in London. 
 
Walcott’s start in the sport, like so many in the field events in the twin-island Republic today, came from John ‘Slim’ Andalcio, the coach at the Toco Senior Comprehensive School and also in the community. Due credit must be given to Andalcio for his vision and commitment without ever having the desire to thump his chest in vainglorious boasting of his charges
 
The significant development that led Walcott to win the Carifta, Central American and Caribbean, World Junior and Olympic titles all in 2012 came from the work of Cuban-born coach now a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, Ismael Lopez Mastrapas. 
 
A child by comparison to his fellow competitors Walcott began the event by taking the lead with a personal best and new national record, then responded to his challengers with another personal best and national record in the second throw to take hold of the Olympic title and the treasured gold medal.

Ismael Lopez Mastrapas, since taking control of the throwing events coaching programme in Trinidad and Tobago has produced more regional and international medals in that country’s history than any other coach. 
 
Walcott’s achievement is historic for the twin-island Republic since no one except perhaps the coach would have thought it possible for someone from the Caribbean to defeat the Europeans, in particular the Eastern Europeans, in a throwing event. This achievement must serve as an inspiration to throwers in the Caribbean that all is not lost and that only the Cubans from the region can challenge for world titles. 

Like James before him, Walcott is possessive of a level of humility that augurs well for the future. 

Michael Phelps 
 
Michael Phelps took the deserving honour of being the world’s most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.
 
This is no mean feat and stands as an excellent example to young people across the globe that hard work brings success when added to talent and a scientific approach to training. Success breeds success and Phelps is a prime example of this dictum. 
 
Phelps has, amongst his many achievements, several world records achieved alone as well as in tandem with teammates in relays. In his final Olympics before retiring Phelps closed this chapter of his life with another gold medal in one of his pet events. What a way to end a career! 
 
Usain Bolt 

Of course the complete showman of the London Olympics of 2012 was Usain Bolt.

Bolt has retained much of his child-like approach, which further endeared him to the huge crowds in attendance at every session of the Athletics segment of the Games. 

Bolt’s false start at the 100 metre final in Daegu last year – and which still remains suspect – created doubt amongst the connoisseurs of the sport. His defeat in both the 100m and 200m at Jamaica’s National Championships earlier this year, a mere few weeks before the Olympics added to the doubts already evident. Comments were made about his commitment to the sport, especially to training for the Games. 
 
Nonetheless Bolt’s 100 metre and 200 metre victories proved to the world that he is one of the greatest sprinters of all time and sealed his fate as the first track and field athlete to have won both sprint titles in successive Olympics, to say nothing of his doing so with such panache. 

The talk that he would have attempted four events rather than the usual three – adding the 4 x 400m relay – was simply not possible. It was idle chatter prior to the Games. He was still not at 100% peak.

Nonetheless, Bolt’s legacy speaks volumes to his immense talent and love for the big occasion. His engagement of the media and appeal to the spectators left him in many respects the doyen of all of the athletes at the London Olympics. 

Chris Hoy 

British cycling has been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the scientific approach to the development of sport globally. This was evident since Chris Boardman utterly demolished all before him in the 4000m Individual Pursuit at the summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain in 1992. He lapped all of his challengers including in the final of the event. 

Boardman was a product of intensive research into the sport undertaken by experts at the renowned University of Loughborough, the foremost educational institution in sport development globally. 

In Beijing the British cycling team showed that they were significantly better prepared than the rest of the world. 

Chris Hoy ended his Olympic career by winning his second gold medal of the London 2012 Games, emerging as the most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time. 

Others 
 
Mention must be made of the achievements of Bradley Wiggins who once more added to his total number of medals won at the Olympics. His victory in the Cycling Time Trial just weeks after becoming the first Englishman to win the Tour de France lifted his profile at home and abroad. 
 
Ben Ainsley’s success at the Sailing event for his fourth successive gold medal at the Olympics also leaves him as the most decorated in the sport at the Olympics level. 

David Rudisha’s stunning world record performance in the 800m at the Olympics was unfortunately overshadowed in the media by Bolt’s second gold at the Games. However the manner of Rudisha’s victory cannot be overshadowed. 

Not since Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena won the 800 metre at the Montreal Olympics has anyone so dominated this event in a single race. Rudisha needed no ‘rabbit’ to assist him in his world record quest. Form the start it was obvious the record was on the cards. He clocked 23 seconds in the first 200 metres and passed the 400 metre mark at 49 seconds. He left all well behind in the event in what was a truly remarkable performance. 
 
Kazakhstan rose to prominence by winning several medals to show the world that having emerged out of the shadows of the Soviet Union the country possesses the talent to stand alongside the rest of the world in sport. The performances of its athletes again serve to highlight just how much sport can raise the profile of a nation. 

China’s rise to prominence 

When China bid for the Olympics several years ago it was clear to all that the leadership would spare no effort and resources in ensuring that the Beijing Olympics of 2008 became the grandest global coming out party of any nation. 

Four years after the Beijing Olympics the Chinese went to London with great determination to cement their place in global sport. 
 
Not surprisingly, China led the medal standings for the better part of the London Olympics yielding to the USA only in the final days – a remarkable achievement. 
 
Rogge’s unfortunate statement yet again 

Sadly, mention must also be made of yet another unfortunate statement credited to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge, in respect of Usain Bolt. 

Many may recall that in 2008 following Bolt’s world-recording performance in the final of the 100 metres, Rogge chided him for what he considered a slighting of his fellow competitors. For that unfortunate comment Rogge received heavy criticisms from all around the world. He failed to appreciate Bolt’s age, charisma and the culture from which he came. 

In London, it was the international media, not Bolt or his management team, who labelled him a legend following his 100m/200m double for the second time in Olympic history. It was therefore most unfortunate when Rogge, for some as yet unintelligible reason, proffered that Bolt is a sporting icon and not a legend. 
 
Clearly Rogge is yet to appreciate the modus operandi of the wide and wonderful world of sport and the on-going developments taking place each passing day.
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