Grenada celebrates maiden Olympic medal

Updated: Aug 08, 2012, 02:19 AM IST

St.George`s: Thousands took to the streets late Monday to celebrate the country`s first ever Olympic medal after the mercurial Kirani James stormed to victory in the final of the 400 metres in London.

Huge crowds began an invasion of the west coast fishing town of Gouyave, James`s home town, moments after he stopped the clock at 43.94 seconds, to spark off nationwide celebrations.

Across the country, in tension-filled living rooms, people were glued to television screens as the 19-year old World champion surged home to break Michael Johnson`s All Comers Record of 43.98 seconds.

Hundreds gathered around huge public monitors set up in the island`s four main towns shouting with excitement as James created history by becoming the only non-US athlete to ever run below 44 seconds.

In addition to Gouyave, there were massive gatherings in the town of Grenville on the east coast and the tourism belt of Grand Anse, as well as the National Stadium in the capital St George`s.

After James stormed to the finish unchallenged, crowds dressed in national colours, blowing shells and car horns in jubilation descended on the streets.

Several new calypsos paying homage to James, released for Grenada`s carnival season climaxing this weekend, blasted from street corner DJs and local radio stations.

However, most of the celebrations were taking place Gouyave`s narrow streets, which were packed with hundreds of people dancing and singing.

The country`s Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, who visited Gouyave, subsequently announced to a frenzied crowd that Tuesday would be a half-holiday, with all government offices closed at 1 p.m.

He subsequently called James to offer congratulations.

"I say it`s an historic occasion because he is the first Grenadian to obtain gold at
the Olympics. Not only for Grenada but the OECS," Thomas said.

"So it`s an historic occasion and we are all are proud of him. We want to let him
know we`re going to support him and continue to do whatever we can to help him
because he has made us proud."

Governor General Carlyle Glean, who is originally from Gouyave, also joined in the
festivities in the area.

Following his triumph, James told reporters in London he knew Grenadians would be
celebrating the entire night.

"It`s a lot. The whole place is probably crazy right now," James said. "I can`t even
explain I am so excited."

Last year, Grenada was also thrown into euphoria when James won the 400m gold medal
at the World Champions in Daegu, South Korea.