The timing could not have been better. The day before Jamaica celebrated 50 years of independence from the United Kingdom, its star sprinter Usain Bolt won the 100 metres gold medal at the London Olympics.
In the Jamaican capital of Kingston, thousands filled the national stadium for celebrations led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller. South African President Jacob Zuma, Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell also got into the party spirit.
In London, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Britain, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, paid tribute to her country.
“We have made our mark on the world, not just in athletics – although nobody can touch us – we have made our mark on the world with our culture, with our music, with our street fashion,” she said.
It was in 1962 that the Caribbean nation finally achieved its independence from the UK, but the past 50 years has seen highs as well as lows.
Jamaica has a per capita GDP of 7,330 euros, placing it 116th out of 226 countries, with its economy relying heavily on the service industry.
Unemployment is rising with official figures showing nearly 17 percent of people currently live below the poverty line – although some reports put that figure at nearer 43 percent in reality – and Jamaica is one of the world’s most indebted nations.
The ‘island in the sun’ also has one of the world’s worst murder rates, largely due to gang-related violence fuelled by drug money.
However, for a small nation, Jamaica has a huge global presence and its current crop of athletes are not too bad either. Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce both took gold at the 2012 Olympics and Yohan Blake came in second to his compatriot Bolt at the 100m men’s final, earning him a silver medal.
Then of course, there is the Reggae legend himself Bob Marley; Jamaica just seems to have a knack for creating superstars.
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