Former Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby has been given a top honour from the Jamaican government for forging close links which led to Olympic track success for Usain Bolt.
While council leader Mike Whitby led the negotiations which secured the Jamaica track and field training camp at the University of Birmingham and established a special festival to celebrate Birmingham’s links with the Caribbean island.
Billions of people around the world heard sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir “big up Birmingham” after making a clean sweep of medal places in the 200 metres at London’s Olympic Stadium last summer.
Now the Jamaican government has handed awards to both Coun Whitby (Cons, Harborne) who was council leader until May last year, and the University of Birmingham, which hosted the Jamaican pre-Olympic training camp, for playing their part in the triumph.
The awards were presented at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS).
Jamaica’s Governor General Sir Patrick Allen said: “On behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson, I say thanks to all of you for your own role in giving us gold in the year of our golden jubilee.
“Even now, nearly a year afterwards, pride in our team still wells up in my heart and I can only imagine how thrilled you all were by the exploits of our young men and women during London 2012.”
Whitby, who leads the council’s Conservative group, said: “This is quite an emotional moment for me.” He said there is an ‘umbilical cord’ between Birmingham and the Caribbean.
Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Edward Peck, received an award on behalf of the University of Birmingham.