Jamaicans mark their 50th birthday

car bonnet with Jamaica flag
By Dania Bogle reporting from Kingston

Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shines.


The words,  which represent the black, green, and gold colours of the Jamaican flag, were never more true than on Monday as the island of 2.8 million celebrated its 50th year of Independence.


It was a night that marked the best of the country’s culture – the music which rocked the world and the dance moves to go with it – were on show at the Golden Jubilee Gala at the National Stadium.


“The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management had advised that there are no more seats available inside”.


The announcement came over the loud speaker as Jamaicans who came out to honour their country’s milestone and had to watch the happenings from the big screens in the venue’s parking lot which had been turned into the Jubilee Village.


Yellow and gold clothes


Those who were there – some decked out in bright yellow and green outfits, others with faces spray painted with miniature flags – and those who watched from the convenience of their homes, saw performances from some of the icons of the last 50 years and archive renditions from those who have passed including the poet Louise Bennett and the legendary Bob Marley.


Vuvuzelas, which became known to the rest of the world during the 2010 World Cup of football sounded and a fitting mark of respect too as South African President Jacob Zuma was a guest of honour of the Jamaican government.


Tropical Storm Ernesto, which had threatened to crash the party as early as Saturday, moved away and, save for heavy showers in the western section of the island in the afternoon, there was peace.


Not everyone escaped though as lightning strikes during Sunday night before caused many sections of the country to lose power which had not returned up to late Monday evening.


Almost every utility pole lining the major streets in the country’s capital Kingston was wrapped in the national colours.


Support for all athletes


Many Jamaicans came from miles around to pile into the Kingston neighbourhood of Half Way Tree Square to watch the action from the 2012 London Olympic Games on the video screens erected there.


There were mixed emotions with little success on the track but those who watched still rallied around their countrymen.


“We are proud of them,” one man said.


Said another: “I know it's hard work for those people over there. Just getting to the Olympics is great.”


They were to be rewarded by the strings of the national anthem being played at 2:35 p.m. local time as the flag was raised inside the Olympic Stadium for the second time in as many days as Usain Bolt collected his gold medal for winning the men’s 100m final on Sunday.


People celebrated wherever they were to mark the first time that flag and anthem had been seen and heard fifty years ago.


The evening closed with a big fireworks display as the nation looked towards the next 50 years.