The “Jaguar” who secured the country’s first Olympic medal in the men’s 400m in a time of 43.94 seconds at last month’s London Olympics came home for the first time last week Thursday to a hero’s welcome at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
The Olympian touched down on his home soil to a warm welcome by State Officials that included Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Mitchell, Speaker of the House of Representatives, George McGuire, Parliamentarians, his parents, and hundreds of fans.
As “King Kirani” alighted from a specially chartered SVG Air flight from the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados just about 7:30 p.m. and walked on a red carpet befitting a head of state, he was greeted by the brass section of the Royal Grenada Police Force Band that played one bar of Calypsonian Inspector’s song, “No Place Sweeter Than Home”.
Moment later, the star athlete was escorted to a reception that was hosted in his honour at the VIP Lounge of the airport.
Prime Minister Thomas who addressed the welcome ceremony said it was a proud moment for all Grenadians, and the member territories of the sub-regional Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The Grenadian Leader said James has made an indelible mark in the sporting arena.
“Coming from such a small country, and to create such international sensation, we are very proud of you for that because we are a small country and this is unprecedented,” he told the gathering.
The Isle of Spice which is known internationally as having the first ever military coup in the English-Speaking Caribbean in 1979, the execution of its Revolutionary Prime Minister on October 19, 1983, and five days later American troops landed on the country to restore peace, would now be positively promoted by the World 400m Olympic Medallist who has the title of Sports/Tourism Ambassador.
Prime Minister Thomas said the exploits of James have created enormous possibilities and opportunities for the country.
He stated that it is now left to the government to put the mechanism in place to benefit from what the Olympian Gold Medallist has done for Grenada.
Sir Carlyle who also spoke at the ceremony said history is being celebrated due to James’ exploit on the track.
However, the Head of State said the significance of the history could be missed by not going back and coming forward.
He pointed out that apart from the grounding James received at both the primary and secondary schools system, his parents remain the pillar of his success.
The Governor General who is a resident of Gouyave, St. John’s like James, noted that no one could grow in the volatile Gun Battle area, the village where the Olympian grew up, and be as humbled as him unless there is strong home support around him.
Sir Carlyle outlined what he thought was recipe for the success of the local track star at the international level.
According to Sir Carlyle, many of the talented youngsters in today’s world are loosing out due to poor upbringing, problems in the home, and problems in the community.
He said the torch that is lit by James is a light that all can see, and one that must be used to show others how they can reach their full potential.
“We have to be ready to help those who are going astray to come forward,” he quipped.
James, who was the man of the moment, said he was grateful to share in the pride of his fellow citizens.
He spoke of being humbled at seeing the large amount of people who turned out to greet him at the airport and took the opportunity to mingle with the boisterous fans who assembled in an area close to the arrival lounge of MBIA.
James told the fans that the appreciation coming from the people gives him the fire to carry on, and to also be a positive ambassador for the country.
The Golden Boy had the opportunity to spend some private time with his family the following day before engaging in a hectic two days of activities.
One of the highlights was an islandwide motorcade on Saturday that lasted for eight hours.
It gave thousands of Grenadians an opportunity to display their national pride and to interact in one way or the other with the Gold Medallist.
However, before setting out on the motorcade, a short Thanksgiving Service was held at the Kirani James Boulevard in St. George’s.
Roman Catholic Priest, Fr. Hugh Logan who delivered the message indicated that God has reminded his people through Kirani that great people come from humble beginnings.
Fr. Logan recalled that James is now the first to win an Olympic Gold Medal from a country with the smallest population and in the eyes of God, the star athlete has made history.
The Cleric noted that with the 20-year old King Kirani coming from Gouyave, which was previously negatively projected in many circles, the question was asked, could anything good come from Gouyave?
“God has shown us the best 400m comes from Gouyave,” he added.
“Kirani you are blessed. You are blessed among men, and I would add today blessed also is the womb that bore you,” he said.
The motorcade saw hundreds of young children assembled along the route and seeking to get autographs and hand shakes from the Olympic Gold Medallist.
In the village of Happy Hill, St. George’s, a group of young children had their bodies painted in national colours.
Shouts of “we love you” echoed throughout as he passed through each of the parishes.
The motorcade took on a carnival-like atmosphere in St. Andrew’s as Peter Bain and his mas band joined in from just outside Progress Park and made their way into Grenville.
The operators of the Crochu Gas Station made a special presentation to the Olympian as he passed through the area.
The business owners who came to the aid of the Grenada Olympic Committee as it prepared for the London Games used a group of young girls to make the presentation to James.
The motorcade ended at the Grenada National Stadium where a major rally and cultural activities took place.