ST GEORGE’S – Grenada’s first Olympic gold medallist, Kirani James, has received a handful of gifts and honours from the government in the Spice Isle.
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has announced that EC$500 000 (BDS$370 000) in government bonds will be given to James for winning the medal.
Thomas also revealed on Saturday night that James would be appointed a tourism ambassador, that an athletic stadium to be built by China would bear his name and that commemorative stamps would be rolled out in his honour.
The Grenada leader told thousands who attended a rally at the National Stadium that a museum and a resource and fitness centre would be built in Gouyave, Kirani’s hometown.
“Cabinet will appoint a national project team which will be mandated to go to every parish and to give guidance to all important interest groups, sporting associations, businesses and the church community,” said Thomas.
“The results of the work will reflect the wishes of all the people as to the kind of legacy we dedicate to the honour of our national hero.
“In doing these things we recognize that we may never be able to repay you for what you have done for our island.”
James, both World and Olympic 400 metres champion who turned 20 on Saturday, also received a quantity of jewellery including a necklace, bracelet, ring and watch from Columbian Emeralds and EC$100 000 from Republic Bank.
His parents were also presented with gift hampers from Duty Free Caribbean.
Calypsonians, poets, dancers and singers all saluted James as part of a three-hour rally that climaxed with an impressive fireworks display that lit up the St George’s skyline.
“Kirani James, you are the only one who can unite us,” declared Opposition Leader Dr Keith Mitchell in a short address at the rally.
“You better stay because I don’t know what will happen when you leave.”
A four-foot-long cake looking like an athletics track was carried to the stage by four people as the Royal Grenada Police Force Band performed a happy birthday song for James.
The rally climaxed a series of activities celebrating James’ Olympic success, beginning with a massive home-coming Thursday attended by hundreds at the Maurice Bishop International Airport.
“The success of Kirani is no surprise to us because we knew his talent and ability,” said Phillip Thomas, principal of the Grenada Boys Secondary School, James’ alma mater.
“We, however, were amazed, just like the rest of the world, that this 20-year-old from a small village in Grenada [would] progress so quickly to the top of the athletic ladder,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a convoy of hundreds of vehicles with thousands of people drove slowly around Grenada. It is believed to be Grenada’s biggest islandwide motorcade.
People packed buses, cars and vans. They wore the national colours and waved flags as they gathered in coastline villages with patriotic music blasted from huge speakers on trucks.
With his upper body through the sun roof of an SUV, James waved constantly to villagers as the motorcade passed through rural communities.
He is due to leave the island today to continue undergraduate studies in business at the University of Alabama. (CMC)