The Bahamas: Small country great athletes
Published: Oct 25, 2013
On Friday, 11th October Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes signed into law two bills establishing Majority Rule Day and National Heroes Day.
National Heroes Day had been campaigned for by a group led by Canon Sebastian Campbell for numerous years.
The act calls for a select few Bahamians to be deemed national heroes. Additional persons are to be designated at lower levels. At the same time it does away with the colonial honors that Bahamians had been awarded over the years. This means that no Bahamian will be designated Sir, Madam, Member of the British Empire, etc. from that day forward.
With the scarcity of Bahamians to be designated national heroes in the future, the question is what does it take for somebody from sports to earn that top designation?
Presently there is one Bahamian who excelled at sports who had been knighted and designated “Sir”. That is Sir Durward Knowles, who along with Cecil Cooke won the gold medal for star class sailing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, and won the bronze medal in Melbourne, Australia with Sloane Farrington.
Sir Durward also captured third place in the World Championships of sailing in the forties.
Another person involved in sports, but not as a competitor, has been knighted. He is Sir Arlington Butler. Sir Arlington had been in politics for some time and was the president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee for thirty-five years.
We must note that the Free National Movement had a national honor in place when the Golden Girls of track and field captured the gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. The women received the top honors provided then. It was called the Order of Merit. It was not continued when the Progressive Liberal Party became the government the next year.
Prior to that, in 1998 at the Silver Jubilee of Independence, numerous persons from various walks of life and in different areas of Bahamian life, be it culture, the arts, education, business, or sports, received national awards.
Lest we forget, numerous athletes are honored each year either by their federations or by the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, as will happen this year.
Regarding the new awards, Prime Minister Perry Christie has indicated that awards could be done posthumously. This opens the door for several individuals, including athletes who have passed.
The question normally is whether the accomplishment of individuals on the track, field or court is sufficient for them to be lifted to the heights deserving of heroism.
There have been numerous discussions on the topic as to who is a national hero.
It was always felt by many that Thomas Augustus Robinson, who the new national stadium was named after, fits that description although he never won an Olympic medal.
Then there are other athletes in track and field who have done this small country with great athletes proud.
We do agree that the top designation must be selective and believe there are several athletes from track and field who have made contributions to our nation worthy of being called national heroes.