At the opening of the Hasely Crawford Commemorative Exhibition at the National Library, Port of Spain, the Olympic Gold medallist was extremely elated and emotional at times, but gracious.
“I felt a dream come true, because I felt that in winning the gold medal we really didn’t really benefit from my achievement, in terms of coaching, in terms of management. So I hope when it goes around the country that people will learn from all that they are seeing here,” Crawford said.
The exhibition is part of the National Heroes Project. The National Gas Company Ltd (NGC), the company behind the National Heroes Project, is seeking to recognise TT citizens who have not only excelled in their profession, but have also, through extraordinary efforts, contributed to or inspired others within society to excel and have real and lasting impact on the country.
At the launch in July, the NGC, in conjunction with University of the West Indies (UWI), profiled the life, achievements and contribution to national development of Crawford, the country’s first Olympic Gold medallist, who won the 100-metre race at the 1976 Montreal games in Canada. The commemorative exhibition is the next step of the project.
At the opening, excerpts from his biography were read by some of the most distinguished women of TT, including Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley; Janelle “Penny” Commissiong, former Miss Universe; Bridgid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House; and Marina Salandy-Brown, director of the Bocas Lit Fest.
After reading excerpts from Michael Anthony’s book Our First Olympic Champion, Rowley said: “It was an excellent opportunity to bring to the attention of the young children and the nation what our icons have done. Hasely is indeed one of our icons. We have to continue to do this and continue to recognise not only our sportsmen, but all persons who have done us proud in TT. And it is important to move from generation to generation and for our young people, starting with these six-year-olds, to understand and appreciate persons who have made us proud.”
Commissiong opted to read the lyrics of Kitchener’s (Aldwyn Roberts) calypso Crawford (is the Man), and when she came to the last verse and chorus she burst into song, much to the shock but delight of those present. She told Newsday afterwards: “It’s great to do anything to support Hasely. He and I go back when I was preparing for Miss Universe, so it is a kind of a nice bond and it is just great that I was asked to be a part of it.”
Annisette-George brought to life excerpts from Basil Ince’s Olympian, and in the process got the audience prepared for the video presentation of Crawford’s back story, leading up to his gold-medal race. So much so that at the end of race, everyone applauded as though it happened yesterday. She said afterwards: “This was really a great accomplishment for the country. I think it is important for stories to be told and be told positive stories, so that they don’t die but that they continue to inspire generations to come.”
Salandy-Brown too said she was honoured to be part of the occasion. Having done great justice to a Keith Smith piece in tribute to Crawford, she said: “I’ve never actually seen the film of the race, and as the readings went on I was learning a lot about him, and that track about how he felt about winning and what had actually happened. And when we saw the film, it was wonderful. It was also wonderful to learn about him through people writing, and talking, and reading, and I enjoyed it enormously. It was a great honour and I’m privileged to be here.”
Lisa Burkett, corporate communications head at NGC, said the exhibition is to be shared and preserved. And to Crawford she said: “You truly are a national hero.”