In the glorious July sunshine, the Jamaican Track and Field team entertained at their welcome dinner, before showing off their skills at their only open training session on the University of Birmingham Munrow Sports Centre Track ahead of the London Olympics, and helped to raise over £30,000 for a Jamaican student’s scholarship in the process.
On Monday July 23 around 420 guests were treated to a fine dining experience in the Great Hall as the team were officially welcomed to the University.
The lucky guests were given exclusive access to all of the Jamaican athletes, including triple world record holder Usain Bolt, and his main 100m rival Yohan Blake.
During the evening’s festivities, Fellows Auctioneers ran an auction which contained a shirt signed by all of the Jamaican team as well as Usain Bolt’s running spikes, which helped to raise over £30,000 to enable a student resident in Jamaica to have a scholarship at the university.
The following day, 160 members of the world’s media, including some who travelled from as far as Japan and Brazil, descended on the university campus, taking their place alongside community groups and schools to sneak a glimpse at arguably the world’s best track and field team prior to the highly anticipated games.
Anticipation grew as vast crowds gathered to watch the team do what they do best, and some of the Jamaican fans in particular added colour to an already exciting display by playing traditional music to entertain the fans.
As the open training session began, some members of the Jamaican team were out on the track, showing off the attributes that make them feared by almost all other Olympic teams.
Meanwhile, other members of the Jamaican team including Dominique Blake and Riker Hylton, met with the huge crowd signing autographs and taking photos as they walked through the fan-zone.
After around two hours of practice the athletes moved off of the track, but to round off the day, lucky members of the crowd were given the chance show of their skills in what proved to be highly popular and entertaining 50m races.
In the press conference following the event, former Olympic athlete and member of the Jamaican Athletics Association Don Quarrie revealed he was delighted with the facilities that the university had provided for his team.
He said: “We knew that London was going to be a special Olympics for us. We knew that when we made the decision on a place that was suitable, capable of housing our athletes in a nice relaxed manner. We chose Birmingham and we are not in any way disappointed.
“The atmosphere is calm, but most of all, everywhere you go the volunteers want to make sure you’re okay. I think Zena and her staff may have spoiled us.”
Captain of the Women’s Jamaican team, Novelle Williams-Mills, wanted to pay a special tribute to the huge numbers of volunteers who had helped look after their athletes during their stay.
“I just wanted to say thanks to everyone that’s been so gracious and been there for us. We really appreciate it and you guys have done an outstanding job. The training facilities have been really great. It’s a beautiful track, and everything is there that I wanted for my final preparations.”
University of Birmingham Director of Sport Zena Wooldridge said that she was extremely pleased that after years of planning, the Jamaican team were enjoying their stay at the University.
“It’s been a really exciting time for us and been years in preparation. We’ve had 60 volunteers who’ve had a great time and the atmosphere in the camp has been fantastic. The camp is important for the University as we are a leading sporting university in the UK.
“Our end goal throughout has been making sure the Jamaican team are right and we give them the maximum opportunity to win gold medals. We’re very happy to be associated with the best track and field team on the planet.”