In Jamaica the only thing bigger than the annual ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships (aka “Champs”) is Christmas. (Maybe). After 106 years of existence Champs is the leading schoolboy/schoolgirl athletics competition in Jamaica (if not the world) and Jamaicans look forward to it with a fervor and passion that is a sight to behold. In the unlikely event that you weren’t aware that Champs was coming up here are some sure signs that its about to take place…
1. Decades-old school ties and moth-eaten epaulettes are dusted off and displayed proudly.
2. Star athletes are treated with more deference and given more media coverage than the new Prime Minister himself.
3. Election results, IMF programmes and all other news and current affairs are forgotten and athletics becomes the sole topic of conversation.
4. For the space of 5 days persons who are close friends for the other 51 weeks of the year become bitter and implacable enemies. (Because they attended competing schools).
5. People who never went to any of the leading track and field schools (and even people who never went to school at all) drape themselves in the colors of those schools and proclaim their eternal and undying loyalty.
6. Folks who haven’t set foot at their alma maters since they graduated 20 years ago can give you detailed “insider” information on all the plans and strategies to ensure that “we” take the trophy home.
7. Graduates of Campion, Immaculate and Hillel wonder what the fuss is all about.
8. People who couldn’t find Edwin Allen, Holmwood or St. Jago on a map can nevertheless give you precise information about the nutrition, personal best times and fitness level of the 3rd substitute to the 2nd string 4x100m team at any one of those schools.
9. Wives and girlfriends are bullied into dressing up in the colors of their husbands’ alma mater to go and sit in the scorching sun in the bleachers for 3 days straight.
10. Tickets for the last 2 days of Champs become harder to obtain than weapons-grade plutonium.
11. Fathers proudly tell their sons about their “glory days” of track and field stardom and conveniently forget to mention that they couldn’t even make the chess team.