‘Hear, respect and perceive’: Donovan Bailey on how Canada’s dialog about racism has advanced


Wanting again 25 years, Donovan Bailey nonetheless fixates on the errors he made on the monitor. However there’s one factor from 1996 that he would not change: how he spoke out about racism in Canada. 

Bailey got here into the Atlanta Olympics feeling the load of a nation, and a sport, searching for redemption after the 1988 Seoul Video games — when Canadian Ben Johnson received gold and set a brand new world document for the 100-metre dash, solely to be stripped of his medal days later after he examined constructive for banned steroids. 

And simply days forward of Bailey’s personal gold medal-winning, world-record breaking 9.84 run within the 100-metre dash, one other cloud was gathering.

In a Sports activities Illustrated article revealed within the lead as much as the marquee occasion, Bailey questioned if the way in which the nation shortly turned on Johnson was partly a operate of his race and his background as a Jamaican immigrant. 

“We all know it exists,” he mentioned when requested about racism in Canada. “Individuals who do not look like Canadian do not get the identical therapy,” he defined, referring to folks of color.

“Will Canadians love a Black athlete?” he went on to say. “I hope so.”

Requested at this time about what motivated his feedback on the time, Bailey mentioned he was merely talking the reality. 

“My accountability 25 years in the past was to be sincere. And that is precisely the place I sit at this time,” he informed The Sunday Journal host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“It was not common to counsel that … there was racism that exists right here [in Canada],” he mentioned. “Nevertheless it was sincere.”

Left to proper: Donovan Bailey of Canada, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, Ato Boldon of Trinidad cross the end line after the boys’s Olympic 100m race on the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta on July 27, 1996. Bailey completed in world document time of 9.84 seconds. (AFP by way of Getty Photographs)

He acknowledged there was some blowback on the time, however added that the identical conversations are nonetheless taking place 25 years later, albeit with a extra open society. 

“The distinction is that there are folks listening and there is dialogue,” he mentioned, pointing to the unlucky actuality that it took occasions just like the homicide of George Floyd to function a catalyst for that dialogue to open up. 

“I all the time try to be an sincere particular person as a result of I do not ever wish to not fall on the correct facet of historical past,” he informed Chattopadhyay. 

WATCH: Donovan Bailey on 25 years since he referred to as out Canadian racism forward of his gold medal win.

Donovan Bailey on 25 years since he referred to as out Canadian racism forward of his gold medal win. 2:07

Wanting again, Bailey mentioned society must carve out house to actually hear and work to know each other. 

“When somebody is speaking about their journey or speaking a couple of journey of individuals which are like them … it’s extremely relative and vital to simply hear, respect and perceive.”

Quitting his day job

By the point he reached the Olympic Video games, Bailey was assured he might win and set data. However the journey to that second started, largely, throughout a dialog together with his coach Dan Pfaff.

“He sat me down sooner or later and mentioned that any time I wish to get critical, I may very well be the quickest man on this planet,” Bailey mentioned. “And I am like, OK, I suppose I must get critical.”

WATCH: Bailey on the coach that helped him change into the quickest man on this planet.

Donovan Bailey on the coach that helped him change into the quickest man on this planet. 1:44

Earlier than he began coaching with Pfaff, Bailey had began a profession in advertising and marketing and actual property, purchased a home and a automotive — and was feeling burnt out. 

“I didn’t like being within an workplace house in my early 20s. I like being exterior. I like the sunshine. Prefer it sort of freed me,” he mentioned. 

Apart from, he added, he had been a number one sprinter in his youth, and he was seeing sprinters he used to beat again then make their method within the sport. 

So in March 1994 he shifted his focus from enterprise to make operating his full-time job. And somewhat over two years later he was named the Quickest Man within the World.

Might have run quicker

Bailey nonetheless hears from followers who named youngsters or pets after him, or who left marriage ceremony ceremonies and funerals to observe the race on July 27, 1996. 

“Even to this present day, I am reminded each single day of the unbelievable occasions that I shared an unbelievable sporting second with all sporting followers world wide, however particularly Canadians.”

Although Bailey has seen the tape “1,000,000 occasions,” each time he watches he breaks down how he might have perfected his efficiency. 

“That is what athletes do,” he mentioned. “I am nonetheless that man to level out the errors that I made. And had I performed what I ought to have performed, how a lot quicker I’d have ran.”

However that does not imply he is bitter concerning the end result.

“I’m fairly pleased with what occurred.”

Ship your reminiscence of watching Donovan Bailey win the gold medal for the 100 metre dash to sunday@cbc.ca

‘All the time been liked’

Revisiting the query he requested earlier than his gold medal-winning efficiency — Will Canadians love a Black athlete? — Bailey says he is heard a powerful “sure” during the last 25 years.

“I’ve all the time been liked,” he mentioned.

“However sure, I used to be by no means doing sports activities for the love. I used to be doing sports activities as a result of I had a God-given present. However I additionally wish to use my platform for one thing good,” he mentioned. 

Bailey describes himself now as a businessman, father and philanthropist.

“I rise up each day and I ensure that no matter it’s I do, it brings worth to me, to my household or to the world.” 

He is keen about higher therapy and funding for Canadian athletes. His newest initiative is Cross The Baton, a fundraiser for youth charities and celebration of his 100-metre gold and his gold-medal profitable 4×100-metre relay crew. 

A distinct Video games expertise amid pandemic

Though native opposition to the Tokyo Olympics continues to be fierce amidst a fourth wave of COVID-19 within the nation, organizers are forging forward.

Bailey is assured that organizers are doing the whole lot essential to preserve the lowered variety of stay spectators as secure as attainable, explaining that different sporting occasions have laid the groundwork for working throughout a pandemic.

He added that the monetary pressures to go forward with the Video games have been doubtless too massive to disregard.

The stands, nonetheless, will likely be largely empty — and Bailey says the athletes will miss the power an viewers brings to the occasion.

“The viewers has all the time been our sixth man,” he mentioned. “That electrical energy whenever you stroll right into a stadium and that pin drops, I imply, that is one thing which you could by no means, ever, ever, ever replicate.”

That mentioned, he is aware of each athlete goes in with a thoughts on profitable gold — and he is rooting for Crew Canada. 

“I hope to see some with the Canadian flags flying on high (of the rostrum) and listening to the nationwide anthem. So I am trying ahead to it.”

Produced and written by Sarah-Joyce Battersby. 

For extra tales concerning the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales inside the Black neighborhood — take a look at Being Black in Canada, a CBC challenge Black Canadians might be pleased with. You may learn extra tales right here.



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