October 4, 2008 / 12:59 AM / 11 years ago

Jamaican leader says Bush seeks help on athletics

Usain Bolt (L) and Asafa Powell (R) of Jamaica at the IAAF Golden League Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting in Brussels September 5, 2008. Jamaica's prime minister said on Friday that U.S. President George W. Bush asked how the Caribbean island could help US churn out more Olympic champions. REUTERS/Yves Herman

KINGSTON (Reuters) - Jamaica’s prime minister said on Friday that U.S. President George W. Bush shrugged off his recent request for aid to Jamaica, asking instead how the Caribbean island could help the United States churn out more Olympic champions.

“When I met with U.S. President George W. Bush last week at the United Nations, the first thing that he said to me was ‘What a powerful performance by your athletes in Beijing,’” said Bruce Golding.

“When I wanted him to assist Jamaica, he was only interested in asking how Jamaica could assist the U.S. with its athletic program,” the prime minister said.

Swelling with pride, Golding spoke at the official start of weeklong celebrations in Jamaica to mark the performance of its athletes, led by flamboyant sprinter Usain Bolt, at the recent Olympic Games in Beijing.

Cheering crowds lined streets across Kingston as all 56 Jamaican athletes who made the trip to Beijing joined in a motorcade celebrating their record haul of 11 medals in the Beijing Games, including six gold.

Bolt shattered the world record each time to capture Olympic gold in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 relay. Jamaicans also swept the medals in the women’s 100 metres.

Golding praised the athletes responsible for a meteoric rise in fame for Jamaica’s sprinters.

“You carried the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Jamaican people. What you did in Beijing was more than your best,” Golding said.

“I don’t think that any of you can appreciate the excitement that you brought to the hearts of Jamaicans.”

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