If the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt or one of his two teammates wins the Olympic 100-metre title on Sunday evening, it will not just be Jamaica that explodes with joy but hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans in London and across Britain.
If the Jamaicans take first, second and third it will be the best Independence Day ever for the Caribbean island of less than three million which celebrates 50 years of independence from Britain on Monday.
Bolt, triple gold medallist from Beijing, is the favourite to retain his sprinting crown but with fellow countrymen Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell hot on his heels, the possibility of a Jamaican trio taking the medals remains a tantalizing prospect.
If that happened, the scenes of wild celebrations expected in Jamaica would be echoed similarly and appropriately in London where the Games are being staged.
“Can you imagine how Jamaica will erupt? But furthermore, can you imagine how London, with the thousands and thousands of Jamaicans here, would erupt?” said Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Britain Aloun Ndombet-Assamba.
Jamaican women sprinters swept the 100-metre competition at the 2008 Beijing Games. The last time that was done by male sprinters was in 1912, when an American threesome took the podium in Stockholm to receive gold, silver and bronze.
About 800,000 Jamaicans and those of Jamaican descent live in Britain, and make up about 7 percent of London’s population.
The first large-scale immigration from the former British colony came after World War Two with 200,000 arriving between the mid 1950s to late 1960s, and has continued steadily since then.
Many live in Brixton in south London and Tottenham, just a few miles from the Olympic stadium, where Jamaican flags are plentiful in homes and on cars, reggae music blasts from shops and restaurants serving Jamaican food are plentiful.
Their bright and noisy presence also comes to the fore in Lord’s and the Oval in London when the West Indian cricket team plays.
So, the sight of a Jamaican crossing the line in London as the fastest man on the planet would spark delirious, colourful scenes across the British capital, Ndombet-Assamba said.
“I can well imagine the frenzy that will take place,” she told Reuters by telephone. “It’s moved beyond hope, it’s an expectation. We expect good things to happen tonight. I’m very excited about it.”
Ndombet-Assamba said many Jamaicans were expected at London’s Hyde Park or at Jamaica House, set up for 10 days during the Games at the O2 Arena to showcase all things Jamaican as well as provide a base for Olympics athletics and Bolt fans.
The London Olympics are a golden opportunity to promote the island’s best features, blocking out other more negative traits, including one of the highest murder rates in the world, largely due to gang-related violence fuelled by drug money.
The island’s tourism board has featured Bolt in ads promoting sunny beaches and laid-back culture, and Air Jamaica promotes its flights to the home of “the world’s fastest man”.
Bolt’s father, Wellesley Bolt, told Reuters after his son won gold in 2008 that the secret to his speed lay in the yams grown in the northwestern area of Jamaica where the sprinter was born.
Some critics say Bolt, 26 this month and famous for his signature archer-like victory pose, may have grown too cocky. Blake beat his training partner twice in three days in the 100-metre and 200-metre races at Jamaica’s National Championship.
Concerned by his late hours, some have even asked the governing body for athletics in Jamaica to provide Bolt with a driver. He has crashed two BMWs in the last year, one on his way home in June from a Kingston nightclub.
Although all eyes are on the Jamaicans, American sprint duo Tyson Gay and 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin could be potential party poopers. But most sporting pundits are adamant there will be a Jamaican winner.
“It’s going to be fitting that our anthem will be heard in the stadium,” the High Commissioner said confidently. “It will give the (Independence Day) celebrations tomorrow an extra lift.”
She added a gold medal for Jamaica on Sunday, coming a day after Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce retained her Olympic women’s 100m title, would also help cement her nation’s global standing.
“We have been a small country and if I can use a boxing term, we punch well above our weight class, not only in sports and athletics but also our influence on the world,” she said.
“Jamaica always had that kind of standing and this is bringing us more. We couldn’t have planned it any better. God is on our side.”