By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Golden Knights were honoured in Grand Bahama during a pre-celebration event on Sunday and will be part of a grand motorcade on Monday that will climax with the unveiling of a mural as a tribute to them for their Olympic gold win six years ago.
The celebration, hosted by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, started at 6pm at the Port Lucaya Marketplace where Grand Bahama residents met and celebrated with the Olympic heroes - Grand Bahama natives Michael Mathieu and Demetrius Pinder, and Chris 'Fireman' Brown and Ramon Miller.
On Monday morning, the Olympians will visit several high schools in Grand Bahama. And at 2pm, they participate in a motorcade from the Grand Lucayan to the roundabout at Coral Road and Settler's Way for the unveiling ceremony of the mural at 4pm.
The junior CARIFTA team athletes in Grand Bahama that performed well at the recent games in Nassau will also be part of the motorcade and the celebrations in Freeport.
Sarah St George, vice chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, said that the company is very proud to be hosting the 2012 Olympic 'Golden Knights' in Freeport, and added that two of them are from Grand Bahama.
The quartet won the gold in the men's final of the 4x400 metre relay at the Olympic Games in London.
She encouraged the Grand Bahama community to come out and support the events. "Let's put aside our worries and show them some real GB love and appreciation," she said.
Ms St George said that Bahamian athletes continue to make history in track and field.
"Shaunae Miller-Uibo 10 days ago struck gold setting a new Commonwealth Games record in the 200 metres of 22.09 seconds. She beat the 16-year record of Bahamian Debbie Ferguson in Manchester, England in 2002. And just a few weeks in the CARIFTA Games Junior national track and field Latrell Taylor, D'Vontae Forbes, Ebony Kelly, Terrance Jones, Tyler Missick and Devine Parker distinguished themselves with medals," she noted.
Ms St George said over the years the company has sponsored numerous track and field events such as the Olympics, Indoor and Outdoor Championships, World Relays, Commonwealth Games, as well other sports events including the recent marathon, the Conchman Triathlon, basketball, baseball, volleyball, rugby, football, tennis, swimming, sailing and gymnastics.
GBPA city manager Troy McIntosh, who also won an Olympic bronze medal in the men's 4x400 metre relay in the 2000 Summer Olympics, said that a lot of time and effort went into preparing for the events in Freeport.
Mr McIntosh said that international athletes receive a huge outpouring of love in their respective countries and that it is time for Bahamians to show the same level of enthusiasm for our 'Golden Knights.'
"We want to see you cheering these amazing athletes on the float parade on Monday and follow us to the mural dedication ceremony," he said.
The mural was the idea of talented artist Jackie Boss. Jose Construction built the mural wall, Anton Gray of Benchmark Builders constructed the track around the mural, and Greg Dames and crew at SSCL installed lines on the track. Dudley Francis and Everett Stubbs designed and oversaw the project.
"As a past Olympian, I am very proud to see this moment come to pass as I have a well-established relationship with these remarkable young men," said McIntosh.
"I understand all too well of the struggles, sacrifice, commitment and the level of hard work one puts in to qualify for an Olympic event, and win a medal. We should at this time allow them to feel this moment again," he said.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard believes the mural will be a lasting testament to the Golden Knights achievement and will serve to inspire future athletes.
He said that the gesture undertaken by the Port Authority is "a remarkable move."
"It is important that we send the message that those persons in the future who will do great things require inspiration, and one of the ways we inspire the future is to celebrate the past, and this celebration does just that," said Mr Pintard.
"I joined the Eight Mile Rock High School family today in the celebration of Latrell Jones and those young men (at Junior CARIFTA Games) who have been inspired by our Golden Knights and the other athletes who have done incredible things. The mural is very important in that it is a lasting testament to their excellence.
"It is signalling what the GBPA and government will do in terms of beautifying the City of Freeport. There is a need for us to have a massive island wide mural programme. In the absence of it, the city's complexion does not reflect the greatness of the spirit of the people, and murals have a way of lifting the human spirit. The seawall at Smith's Point begs for a mural and that we will deliver," he said.
Minister Pintard commended the GBPA for its commitment to sports. He explained that the commitment by the Government and the Port Authority would help brand Grand Bahama as a sports destination, not just for national events, but also for international events.
Two-time Olympic track athlete Iram Lewis, MP for Central Grand Bahama, said the Golden Knights would be "immortalised" on Grand Bahama, and by extension in the Bahamas.
He said that he is proud of Michael Mathieu and Demetrius Pinder who are both from the Central GB constituency.
"I thank the GBPA for your vision to recognise these heroes. It (the mural) will serve as a lasting inspiration to athletes to come and as part of our history," he said.