Jamaicans paint town gold in honour of independence – and Usain Bolt

Today was already a special day for London's expat community – even before Sunday night's glory

In symbolic ceremonies in London and Birmingham yesterday, the Union Jack was temporarily lowered and replaced with the saltire-based flag of Jamaica, in recognition of the Caribbean nation's 50th anniversary of independence from British rule.

That change was mirrored at London 2012 where the red, white and blue bunting that had been ubiquitous around the North Greenwich Arena and other venues for nine days, momentarily gave way to the Jamaican colours of black, green and gold, fluttering in the Thames breeze, which also wafted the cooking smells of brown stew chicken and curried goat.

Thanks to the efforts of victorious sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Britain's Jamaicans are walking with an extra spring in their steps.

As Olympic gymnasts performed routines inside the arena, outside on the newly built Jamaica House Terrace an impromptu choir of female voices offered up a rendition of "Jamaica, Land We Love" and then an alternative anthem, "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley.

Beverley Clarke, a health visitor who won an OBE for services to fostering after coming to England from her birthplace of St Catherine, Jamaica, and who now lives in Sutton, Surrey, was in the queue for Caribbean cuisine.

"It's fantastic," she said. "Jamaica is punching from the waist upwards and continuing to achieve right across the globe." Bolt's achievements would be inspirational, she said: "He's such a sweet young man and sets an example to all our young people."

Justin Campbell, 15, raised in Jamaica and now living in Slough, said he had "no doubt" Bolt would win a further gold in the 200m and said he was equally proud the island had "been self-sustaining and able to succeed for 50 years without colonial rule".

For Jamaica this is a huge opportunity, which is why its government has established Jamaica House at the O2 to use this moment to drum up trade. Among those attending events were Anthony Hylton, minister of industry, and Wykeham McNeill, minister of tourism. As Jamaica reaches 50 it is feeling the pressure the economic downturn places on North American tourists and remittances sent home by Jamaican expats.

“This is a great time of celebration but also a time for reflection as to how the country can move forward and progress. The country is at a crossroads,” said George Ruddock, Jamaican-born managing director of GV Media, London publisher of The Voice and Weekly Gleaner newspapers.

Many feel that Jamaica failed to market its brand after the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The 50th anniversary has offered greater opportunity in London. Rob Hallett, president of international touring at entertainment giant AEG Live, recognised this by putting on 12 reggae concerts at the O2, culminating with Jimmy Cliff.

On his way to rehearsals for that show last night, reggae singer Bob Andy praised Bolt for electrifying the anniversary celebrations. “That’s the ultimate that any one individual can give to Jamaica – it’s opportune and almost mystical. If one man can do that then Jamaicans can come together to move from austerity to prosperity.”

Anniversary celebrations took place in Manchester, Huddersfield, South Wales and Birmingham, where Victoria Square hosted four days of fun. "It's like a big party at the moment," said Prince Morgan, dressed in Rastafarian colours. But amid the celebrations, he had a word of caution about the nation's future. "Are we truly independent? The head of state is still the Queen," he pointed out, noting growing calls for a Jamaican republic. Usain Bolt for president?

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'