By Lincoln Depradine
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- More than EC$730,000 in cash, real estate, treasury bonds and jewelry has been donated to Kirani James, the Grenadian superstar athlete, who won gold on August 6 at the Olympic Games in London, England.
The government, as part of a reward package, is offering James EC$500,000 in bonds. The government bonds will mature in five years, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has announced.
Another $100,000 is being donated by Republic Bank (Grenada) Limited; and Colombian Emeralds International presented James with a jewelry suite – watch, bracelet and chain – valued at US$5,000 or EC$13,250.
The donations were made public Saturday at celebrations at the National Stadium honouring James, who also has been appointed a Sports/Tourism Ambassador. The position carries with it the use of a Grenada diplomatic passport.
Grenadians – many dressed in national colours and waving the country’s red, green and gold flag – flocked to the stadium for the carnival-like celebrations that included songs, dance, poetry, speeches and a spectacular display of firework.
The event followed a day-long island-wide motorcade.
Grenadians in every parish and village, including James’ hometown of Gouyave in St John, lined the streets to wave to him, shake his hand and have him autograph shoes, T-shirts, caps and other paraphernalia.
Many shouted “happy birthday” to James, who is title-holder of both the Olympic and World Championships 400 meters.
James, a student at the University of Alabama, turned 20 on Saturday. His birthday tribute included the unveiling of a huge cake depicting an athletic track.
The tribute, said James, was the best birthday commemoration he could ask for.
James said he was almost brought to tears witnessing the love and outpouring of support from Grenadians.
He emphasized faith in God, saying that it was always his prayer to be in a position to help in family.
His mother and father, who were guests at the event at the stadium, received special gift baskets – each worth US$250 – from local business house, Duty Free Caribbean.
In recognition of James Olympic victory, the athletic stadium – severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 – will be renamed the “Kirani James Stadium” after it is rebuilt, Prime Minister Thomas also revealed Saturday.
September 1, James’ birthday, “will henceforth be known as Kirani James Day,” the prime minister added.
Following his victory at the World Championships in South Korea last year, Lagoon Road in St George’s was renamed Kirani James Boulevard.
Thomas said government plans on upgrading the boulevard and also will be publishing special commemorative stamps in James’ honour.
As well, Thomas disclosed that the former Fish Market in Gouyave will be transformed into a museum, resource centre and fitness centre in the name of James.
The museum project will be undertaken by government in collaboration with James’ sponsors and SpeedZone, the St John-based track and field club in which the athlete has membership and from which he benefitted from coaching in his formative years.
Lawyer Ruggles Ferguson and his sister, Sandra, are also donating about 10,000 square feet of land in Palmiste, St John, to James.
“The land is worth about EC$120,000,” the lawyer has said.
Tributes to James began Thursday evening after arrival at Maurice Bishop International Airport on his first visit since the London games, where Grenada competed with a 10-member team.
“It's very humbling to see everybody here,” James said at an official airport welcoming ceremony.
His gold, won in 43.94 seconds, was Grenada’s only Olympic medal.
It also was the first Olympic gold ever won by an athlete from a member-country of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
The last of the weekend celebratory events – which were covered by international media – was held Sunday with the launch of a youth motivational program in the village of Gun Battle, Gouyave, where James was born to Annie James and Jurani Marshall.