It was a night in which everyone wanted to be Jamaican. And luckily for Usain Bolt fans who did not have a ticket for the Olympic Stadium, there was another place where they could come together.
Jamaica House in the Rio Jockey Club, in the upmarket neighbourhood Gávea, rocked to the sound of booming reggae as fans draped in the black, green and gold of the Caribbean nation’s flag gathered to see their favourite son.
The party, sound tracked by the heavy bass-lines of DJ Narity, was loud, proud and multicultural.
Only when, at 10.25pm, Bolt lined up to defend his 100m title, along side his arch-rival Justin Gatlin, did the crowd grow tense and hushed. Could the man of the Rio 2016 Games deliver? Could he become the first person to win three consecutive 100m Olympic titles?
The party went wild and soon afterwards, one VIP guest arrived and sang Bolt’s praises: Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness.”I’m proud of Usain Bolt, he’s a once in a century kind of athlete, he demonstrates what humankind can do with hard work and commitment,” Holsness said as Bob Marley’s One Love boomed out in the background.
“Usain has has achieved what I consider to be an almost impossible feat. He is our beloved son, and from what I saw in the stadium, the world is proud of him. The stadium was literally willing him to win. It was an electrifying experience, I’ve never witnessed anything like it before and I don’t think I will again.”
For Camila de Alexandre of Rio de Janeiro, coming to Jamaica House was a no-brainer. She fell in love with country during a work trip and returned with her boyfriend four months later. “I love Jamaica, I love Jamaican music – reggae, dub, soundsytem – and the culture and the island. It’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen.”
Latoya Armstrong from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was happy to return the compliments to her hosts. “The best thing about Brazil is the people – they have a wonderful spirit,” said the dentistry student who has been studying at the Fluminense Federal University in Rio for one year.
Among the other revellers was Dutch rower Olivier Siegelaar, who won bronze in the men’s eight competition on Friday. “I have just seen history being made. Usain is a legend. he’s incredible, without precedent.”
Marlene Noel, who is originally from Jamaica but now lives in London, said she had been very well received at Jamaica House and by Brazilians. “We are having a great time, we love the Brazilian people, they remind us of Caribbean people,” she said. The party was rocking and DJ Narity made a special request over the PA: “Can I get some beer please?”
Meanwhile, another Jamaican, Jacqui Evans, found time to reflect on what the success of her nation’s athletes means to its people. “We’re proud of everything they have done, for the tremendous way they put us on the world stage.
“Where we come from as a people and as country with such limited resources, it means so much to be here where the world can see what we can do. We come from a poor little country and this is so wonderful.”