Four years after the London Olympics, the hype regarding the safety of the next venue, Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, seems to have died down, particularly where track and field is concerned. The start of the lucrative Diamond League series has heralded the onset of several other meets all over the world, giving fans and indeed athletes an opportunity to discover who are the potential finalists in the many events to be contested this summer. Jamaicans got an opportunity, up close, to witness one such early contest with the staging of the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet last Saturday at the National Stadium. The meet was well attended and the usual World leading and personal best performances of some of the athletes on show added to the general satisfaction of those who attended or who watched on television. The late withdrawal of some of the big name stars seemed not to have dampened spectator enthusiasm except when it was announced – just before the start of the women’s 200-metre event – that double Olympic sprint champion and Jamaican sprint queen, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would not be running. The Jamaican hopefuls who did compete, however, gave fans confidence that the prophesy of Olympian and new Member of Parliament, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, would be fulfilled. Mrs Cuthbert-Flynn predicted that the nation would surpass the 12 medals garnered at the event in London in 2012. Elaine Thompson (10.79), Kemar Bailey-Cole (10.01) in the 100-metre races, Danielle Williams (12.55) in the sprint hurdles, Janieve Russell (54.61), Jaheel Hyde (49.16) in the 400m hurdles races, Javon Francis (44.85) and Novlene Williams-Mills (50.87) in the flat 400m, all showed signs of being in the finals of their events in Rio. This is not to say that the other Jamaicans who competed last Saturday night have no chance in reaching the finals or even medalling in Rio. Asafa Powell looked very good in the early stages of the men’s 200m and his time of 20.45 is not to be sniffed at. However, with his history of groin and hamstring injuries, I am confident that his handlers will encourage him to concentrate on the 100m and the second or finishing leg of the 4x100m relay, of which the nation seems to be a sure pick for the gold in Rio. There were other very notable performances at the JII last Saturday. Bahamian Shaunae Miller, who ran what seemed to be an easy 22.14 in the women’s 200m, was the standout performance of the night. Miller is better known as a 400m runner, who uses the 200m to sharpen her speed in the first 200m of the race. Her body type is reminiscent of another top world class runner (a male) and if she continues to progress (as it now appears), Marita Koch’s very suspicious world record of 47.60 seconds may be in danger. Well, maybe not this year, but definitely before the following Olympics.
The Country Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Khassim Diagne has lauded the government and people of Liberia for showing hospitality to Ivorian refugees who entered the country in 2011.Mr. Diagne who expects to leaving Liberia in two weeks from said in an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday that when Ivorian refugees sought refuge in Liberia as a result of their post-election violence, Liberians in the three counties of Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland opened their doors to them.He made specific mention of the Ministries of Foreign and Internal Affairs, and the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Reintegration Commission (LRRRC) for their efforts to create an acceptable environment for the refugees and the UNHCR.Mr. Diagne said humanitarian roles by the government and citizens make Liberia a pleasant country, and made their work easy.Reflecting on Liberia’s role in the refugee agency, the UNHCR boss said Liberia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the AU Convention on Refugees and has a cooperation agreement with the UNHCR.“When I came to Liberia in 2013, 65,000 out of 220,000 Ivorian refugees had left Liberia as a result of voluntary repatriation. From 65,000 there are 38,000 remaining now as I prepare to leave Liberia,” he noted.He attributed the failure to complete their repatriation to the Ebola crisis which caused the Ivorian government to close its borders with Liberia. “If it were not Ebola, we would have repatriated all the refugees and closed the refugee program, or the remaining number would have been less than it is,” he said.Counting UNHCR’s successes in Liberia, Mr. Diagne said it targeted to repatriate 16,000 refugees but added 20,000. Furthermore, he said with support from the Liberian government they were able to prevent the deadly Ebola from entering the refugee camps in the three counties.He also indicated that in 2011 there were six refugee camps in Liberia, but was able to consolidate and closed three down.He added that UNHCR was also able to provide sustainable skills to refugees that will not have to depend on international non-governmental organizations for support.He counted on the prevalence of Ebola in Liberia and the surrounding countries as the main challenge because it prevented the voluntary repatriation to meet the targeted goal.The UNHCR Country Representative also named decline in financial support as a challenge during his tour of duty, explaining that when the refugee crisis reaches a peak and begins to diminish, financial support diminishes as well.Moreover, Mr. Diagne noted that it is difficult for them to work during the rainy season because they cannot easily have access to the camps or even repatriate refugees.Commenting on what could be a solution to reducing refugee crisis on the continent of Africa, the UNHCR Representative said political crisis that once served as a condition for refugee crisis is diminishing.He, however, indicated that the new phenomena are terrorism, sabotage and economic migration.Citing some references, Mr. Diagne pointed out terrorism groups, including Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda movement in northern Mali and migrations of many Africans from the continent to Europe as some conditions that result to refugee crisis.He urged the AU to exert effort to stabilize the condition as political weight in increasing refugees is diminishing and replaced by terrorist activities.Meanwhile, Mr. Diagne will be leaving Liberia for Cameroon and will be based in Yaoundé.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)