Belize's past is not exactly chocked full of heroes... so when the real
thing shows up we tend to get excited. Add to that excitement the fact
the hero is proudly half Belizean and you have all the ingredients for a
welcome of Olympian proportions. That's exactly what track and field
superstar Marion Jones received today as she arrived here for a four-day
visit. News 5's Ann-Marie Williams was at the airport to chronicle the
story, while cameramen George Tillett and Brent Toombs stuck to Jones
rice on beans.
Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
When the fastest woman in the world, accompanied by her mom and brother,
touched down at the Philip Goldson International Airport around 12:45
afternoon, there was no shortage of Belizeans to meet and greet her.
Among the family members on hand were uncle and aunt, Godwin and Eleanor
Hulse. They formed part of the receiving line along with Prime Minister
Musa, Education Minister Cordel Hyde, Mayor David Fonseca and City
Counsellor Marshall Nunez.
Although Jones is not the first Olympic star to visit the jewel, she's
best, having won an amazing 5 medals at the Sydney Olympics: three golds;
the 100, 200 and 4x400 relay, and two bronze medals in the long jump and
Although born and raised in Los Angeles Marion's mother is a Belizean;
Marion Hulse Toler. The elder Marion must have raised her daughter well
because she certainly has not forgotten her roots.
And Belizeans responded with enthusiasm and emotion, crowding the
for even just a glimpse of one of the greatest athletes this planet has
"What do you know about Marion Jones?"
Marion Fan #1
"Well, I just start to hear who Marion Jones is since I saw her on TV."
Marion Fan #2
"A famous runner."
Marion Fan #3
"I saw her on TV and I like her act, she's a star."
"Are you here to see her too?"
Marion Fan #3
"Yeah, since I am here, I would like to see her personally."
Marion Fan #4
"I'm doing a feature on Belize as well for the magazine I work on, so
be writing about the jaguars and the preservations in Belize."
"Do you know that Marion Jones is landing soon?"
Marion Fan #4
"Yes. We found this out when we few in earlier on, which was about three
weeks ago and yeah, we couldn't believe out luck we're flying out she's
"What do you know about Marion Jones?"
Marion Fan #4
"Well we were watching the Olympics and we obviously saw here competing
there and she performed terrific and she waved the Belizean flag."
Marion Fan #5
"Wonderful because it's a role model for the kids. I hope they could
the kids get a whole lot of her instead of just you know... because the
would say well they could do the same thing she's doing."
Marion Fan #1
"I believe she's a Belizean."
Not quite, Marion was born in California, but her Belizean roots are
increasingly well planted in this proud country. Ann-Marie Williams for
Mayor presents key to city
The trip from the airport into town was a slow one, with a number of
for Marion to greet the throngs of well wishers who were waiting to meet
her. The scene at the Belcan roundabout was near pandemonium as Jones
stopped to receive the key to the city from Mayor David Fonseca.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls on behalf of all
Belizeans especially Marion Jones and family."
Mayor David Fonseca
"Marion, it is with great honour and on behalf of my council and the
citizens of Belize City, that I take pleasure in officially welcoming
and your family once again to Belize City and of course to the country
Belize. I can stand here all day to recall and recount the memories of
last visit to Belize during the first Belize Games, but then again Clara
would kill me for spoiling the programme, so let's do that later."
"Seriously though, the records for Belize City shows that the past
including myself have given the keys to Belize City to a number of world
leaders from all around the world, also to religion leaders and well
entertainers. However, today's key presentation is a special one for me
I believe for all of us, not only for the reason that Marion is a
in her own right, not because she has won hundreds of races and jumps
not only because she won five medals at the last Olympics, but more
importantly, she is one of us. Marion is a part of our Belizean heritage
that is what makes it very special. Marion Jones, it is with great
and honour that on behalf of the Belize City Council, the Government of
Belize and the people of Belize, that I present to you today the keys to
Belize City and acknowledge you as an honourary citizen. May God bless,
guide and protect you always."
"Thank you Mr. Fonseca. Hello, hello. Well I understand that this key
been given to many world leaders, but this da fu we (laughs). This is
an honour. There's been a lot of planning to get me and my family here,
we're here now and we're home, so thank you."
>From the Belcan roundabout Marion's motorcade made its way through Belize
City. News 5 was there as Jones met school children and received gifts
along the route.
The gift presented by Ann-Marie on behalf of Channel 5 was a complete set
video tapes on Belize.
Jones handles press like a pro
After her royal welcome and hero's ride through Belize City Marion
still had enough stamina to share a few words with the Belizean media.
tape is just back from the Princess Hotel, and here's what she had to
"To look out my window in the airplane and see all of the school
lined up, gosh it was completely overwhelming. I don't think it was
because I'm not surprised quite often, but it's overwhelmed and
Q: One of the main purposes of your visit is to get the Order of Belize
to be named ambassador for sports for Belize. What does this mean to you
what do you plan to do in this capacity?"
"Of course it's an honour. First and foremost, I was just excited to be
to come and share my experience with the school children in particular
Belize and get a chance to look in their faces and see their eyes light
when they saw me. That was, I think for me, the biggest reason coming and
course to see my family. To have an honour such as that bestowed upon me
incredible and just like an earlier question, I plan to sit down over
next couple of days and talk all about it and talk about what my role is
going to be. I'm very, very excited about it and looking forward to
"Very early on we knew that whatever I put my mind to I was gonna
great things, and it happened to be at this point athletics, so I think
it comes from a number of influences in my life. Obviously my mother has
influenced me a great bit in just having the family around me. I think
instilled a certain type of confidence that I exhibit today."
Q: Have you suffered at all from your embracement of the Belizean flag?
you suffered because in the eyes of the world certainly you have
you mixed linage?"
"Yes, I understand. No I haven't received any form of backlash because of
carrying the American flag and the Belize flag. Overall, I received
tremendous amount of support from everybody, from the Americans that I
from the Belizeans that I meet in the States and I have received not one
once of backlash from it. And if so, I'll just have to deal with it."
"After the Olympic flames dwindles, what does Marion Jones wants to do
in the next ten, fifteen years?"
"I don't know if dwindle is the right word to use. In my mind, I think
will burn on and on forever. I'm still quite young, I just turned
twenty-five in October, so I think I have a number of Olympic games still
my future, but track and field is not the only thing I see in my future.
have a certain passion for the game of basketball, some of you might
that, so perhaps once this track and field career is over I might dabble
that. I'm interested in journalism, so very soon I hope to be on the
side of the microphone."
Marion Hulse Toler, Mother of Marion Jones
"I'm very grateful, I'm deeply grateful to all of you, to my country,
countryman, countrywoman for this goodwill effort. It's such a
spiritual thing for me. The love, I have said to many of the members of
family, that... I really don't need to eat for another month at least, I
sustain myself from this outpouring of love that I have seen today."
"It's been a long time coming, it's a lot of work, but you can do it. My
daughter said all you have to do is believe, I believe too. I never
who I am, where I came from, forever love my country and I'm very happy
be able to share my daughter with you and I actually considered this for
long, long time."
Jones will be honoured tonight at a reception at the Biltmore Plaza
She will be up bright and early Wednesday for a talk show hosted by her
uncle, Godwin Hulse. That town hall style broadcast begins at seven a.m.
will be carried live right here on Channel 5. Our coverage will continue
Wednesday night with a live broadcast of Marion receiving the Order of
Belize at what will soon be called--what else--Marion Jones Stadium.
the day Jones will meet there with young athletes before travelling south
Dangriga and Punta Gorda.
The secret of Jones' success? Family
Day two of Marion Jones week got off to an early start as Marion, along
her mother and brother, were featured guests on a special 7:00 a.m.
broadcast on nationwide radio and television. Hosted by Marion's uncle,
Godwin Hulse, the programme was part family reunion and part press
conference. As she demonstrated yesterday, Marion's amazing athlete
abilities are matched by a world class personality.
"Can we look forward to Marion Jones doing this again when she wins her
other golds in the other Olympics coming up?"
"I don't even think it should have to wait that four years. I don't
that we should have to have this celebration only when a Marion Jones wins
medal. We should celebrate our athletes regardless. I am totally aware
in a small way I am a catalyst in a way of opening people's eyes in
understanding and learning to embrace what we have, but I don't think it
should take going to the Olympics and having to win three gold medals
two bronze to have everybody so excited about sports in this country."
"I think it's important for the athletes to realise that there are
who are committed to them, there are people who are running things who
committed to them getting better. I think if the athletes see that and
see that there is an open line of communication, then they'll feel
encouraged to want to go out there everyday, get better, have fun and
will progress. A very prominent example, in the country of Bahamas, they
have around the same population as Belize, yet they won the gold medal
the 4x100 relay They had three women in the hundred metre final, that
that we saw, they had two women in the final of the two hundred metres
several other relays there. And so I think what we all need to understand
that it's not just going to take one set, it's not going to take the
government doing all the funding, it's not going to necessarily take
the private sector, it's going to take a combination of things."
"I would like to speak to your mother, and to ask her perhaps to say
something to those Belizean women who are struggling to rear children on
their own and to give them a message of hope."
Marion Hulse Toler, Mother of Marion Jones
"I would like to say to women in general, but particularly those who
consider their situation a struggle, that it is possible but you've got
isolate what's important and if you have children, naturally children
first... in everything. You must put your children first; you must
that it is your responsibility. So struggles, everyone has that, even
who have mother and father, jobs whatever, everyone has struggles and
going to be, that's part of our journey every single one of us. Put you
children first, they don't need everything, they don't need fifty airs
shoes, they don't need what the Jones have down the street. All they need
to be healthy and to love, give them love."
>From the Princess it was only a short hop to the National Stadium, where
Marion got down to the business of working with Belizean athletes. News
camera was on hand as the world's fastest woman turned into Belize's
"I think we're all making a commitment, a commitment to all of you to
things better. And we're all aware that things need to get better, but
are committed, just look around, to getting things better."
"I hope a lot of you are not sitting out there saying, well she has it
she has this facility, this coach, because we're working on that we
We promise we're working on that and we're going to get it done."
"Thank you for all of the gifts, but the next time that I stand in front
you, all of the money and the time and effort that has gone into the
will go into getting us all ready alright. So enough of the gifts
let's get the facilities ready, let's get the coaches here, let's get
(Marion coaching the athletes)
"Relax all this okay, because in the blink of an eye you're gonna have to
so intense and tight, give yourself, your body a chance to relax for a
second and prepare your body for what's about to happen."
"There's the start, which in a hundred metre is very, very important
it can make or break you. Easily I can get last place if slip in the
easily. So you've got to get a good start."
"Ready, set, go. Right back here, you see how she's butt kicking in a
certain way instead of driving?"
Following her session at the stadium Jones and her party flew to
then on to Punta Gorda where she was enthusiastically welcomed by
of both communities. Tonight at 7:00 Marion will be presented with the
of Belize in a ceremony that will be broadcast live.
Marion's Speech after receiving Order of Belize Award:
"What an evening, what and evening. This is a remarkable honour and I feel
privileged to be standing here in front of you tonight and celebrating all
of my accomplishments, my family's accomplishments and everyone's
accomplishments. I am only twenty-five years old and sitting down there
tonight and listening to my family and friends talk about me, gosh, I sound
and felt like I was forty. But it seems like a long time. I remember
visiting Belize when I was how old ma? About eight years old and falling in
love with this place that I'd heard so much about. And ever since then, I've
come back several times to see my family and to celebrate Belize's beauty,
its nature, its people, its soul."
"And so after I graduated college in 1997 and made the decision to compete
in athletics full time, I knew that it was more than just running out there
on the track, I knew I was out there for a reason. And perhaps at twenty-one
years old I didn't realise what that reason was. I knew I enjoyed track and
field, I enjoyed my sports, but I knew deep down that I was out there for a
deeper more meaningful reason."
"And so in June of 200 when I made my first Olympic team, and it was my
first, I still wondered, gosh it's a wonderful sport and I'm having a ball,
but why, why am I doing all of this? And so in September of 2000 when I
travelled to Sydney, Australia and I went in there with the bold statement
of saying I was going to win five gold medals, I still wondered, why am I
really, really doing this? I'm loving it, I'm having a ball, but there is
something more, I can't really put my hand on it? And so I crossed the
finish line for the hundred metres final and I won by the way (crowd and
Marion laughs)... And I crossed that finish line and immediately saw my
family I knew what it was all about (voice breaking)... it was about family.
"Dis da fu we" says Marion
Belizeans rolled out the red carpet to give Olympic superstar Marion Jones
a royal welcome upon her arrival for a four-day official visit to Belize.
Thousands of schoolchildren and ordinary citizens lined the principal
streets of Belize City as this Belizean/ American heroine rode in a
motorcade from the international airport to the Princess Hotel.
It was the beginning of what would turn out to be an overwhelming
emotional experience for the twenty five year old champion, sometimes
described as the fastest woman in the world. For the students who had been
waiting what seemed like hours to see Marion, the moment was so
exhilarating that some even screamed as she passed by.
Prime Minister Said Musa and Education and Sports Minister Cordel Hyde were
at the airport to welcome Marion, her mother Marion Hulse and her only
brother Albert Kelly as they stepped down from the aircraft onto a red
Even after all the hugs and kisses with which Marion was greeted on her
arrival, many more schoolchildren and well-wishers lined her route along
the Northern Highway from Ladyville into Belize City. The school children
in Ladyville presented Marion with two gifts, the first of many she would
receive that day. One primary school girl was so overcome with emotion that
she could hardly speak as, her eyes brimming with tears, she finally came
face to face with Marion and presented her with a gift on behalf of her
At the first roundabout, with all the flags flying, Mayor David Fonseca
presented Marion with the key to the City, which she brandished jubilantly
as she shouted to the crowd, "Dis da fu we." Her face was wreathed in a big
smile as she dominated the emotions which threatened to overwhelm her.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Princess Hotel, Marion
reflected back on what was going through her mind upon her arrival at the
roundabout and said; " Knowing that my family is there, my roots are here.
At that one point I think it just ticked me off. It made me.....
Marion also expressed her pride in her Belizean roots. "I have received a
number of awards over the past couple months, but today's reception
definitely ranks top on my list. It's totally overwhelming. That is the one
word that comes to mind. And the fact that I could come back home with my
family to my family and be awarded and presented to so many blessings, it's
truly an honour... This is where my heart is," Marion said.
She said that her ties to Belize did not start in Sydney, Australia, at the
2000 Olympics. Rather, it began many years ago, in 1986, when at the age of
eleven, she and her brother accompanied their mother on their first visit
to Belize, to spend some time with their uncle Godwin Hulse in Big Falls
Since then Marion has returned several times to Belize, the most recent in
1998, when she returned with her husband. "I knew very early on that I am a
Belizean and an American," she affirmed. "At the Sydney games, I had my
family there.... When I saw them, I really knew that I have a
responsibility to show the world both sides of Marion. That is, the
American side and the Belizean side, and so that is why I took the Belizean
Marion explained that her mother has played a key role in her life. As a
child growing up, her mother had influenced her a lot and encouraged her to
strive on in what she believed in. She expressed a strong appreciation for
her mother and other family members for their support and confidence in her.
Asked if she had suffered any stigma for holding up the Belizean flag at
the Sydney Olympics, she said, "no, I have not received any sort of
backlash... overall I have received tremendous amount of support from
Marion's reflections back on her life went far beyond her winning five
Olympic medals. In her words, her life is surrounded by hard work and her
love for sports. She said that going out on the field to do four hours a
day and six days a week of workout, takes a tremendous amount of dedication
and belief in what one can accomplish.
Marion's mother has been beside her through all the ups and downs in her
career and got very emotional as she described the long wait for the
success that Marion is now enjoying. "A mi fu bring di handkerchief...
eyewater di run from everywhere. I am deeply grateful to my country, my
countryman, country woman for this goodwill effort. It's truly a very
spiritual thing for me," Marion Hulse said.
Minister of Tourism Mark Espat told Reporter that Marion Jones' visit to
Belize will have a positive impact on Belize's tourism industry. He said
that he is pleased with the tremendous love and support the Belizean
public had displayed in receiving Marion.
On the second day of her visit, Marion's uncle Godwin Hulse hosted a live
radio and television call-in show, dubbed "the Marion Jones Breakfast
Show", at the Princess Hotel, and many Belizeans across the country
called. Most of those who managed to get through, expressed their
appreciation and love to Marion for recognizing Belize as her homeland.
Later Wednesday morning, she made a brief visit to the National Stadium,
where she met and chatted with young Belizean track and field athletes.
Then she was off to Dangriga and Punta Gorda for another day of meeting and
greeting enthusiastic Belizeans.
In addition to having the National Stadium renamed the Marion Jones
sporting complex in her honour, Marion Jones was also honoured with the
prestigious Order of Belize award, which was conferred on her by Prime
Minister Said Musa at the City Centre Wednesday night. She has also been
named Belize's Ambassador for sports.
At the ceremony for the presentation, her uncle Godwin Hulse and his
daughter Christa, gave a profile of Marion's early career as an athlete.
Godwin Hulse recalled Marion's birth on October 12, 1975, which he said is
now not Columbus Day in his mind, but "Marion Jones Day". He also recalled
the many examples of Marion's
warm human spirit, such as when she took time to make a birthday party for
her little cousin, Godwin's son in the hotel room in Sydney, on the same
day she won her first gold medal.
Christa recalled Marion's early love of sports: softball, swimming,
basketball, even ballet! She described how Marion's running prowess led her
to win the 100 meters in the Southern California Municipal Federation at
the age of 10 and again the following year. Her avid love of sports led her
to the San Fernando Valley Junior High basketball championships in 1988,
when Marion was scoring as high as 48 points in one game.
By the 90's when Marion was voted Gatorade Athlete of the Year, she had
already won nine titles in high school and caught the eyes of college
coaches and sportswriters.
Uncle Godwin also shared many anecdotes from Marion's childhood holidays in
Belize. Marion's own somewhat tearful response after receiving the order
of Belize removed any doubt that she is 100% Belizean girl.
Minister for Women Dolores Balderamos Garcia also gave an address profiling
Marion's mother, Marion Toler, and presented her with a special award as an
exemplary Belizean mother.
On Thursday Marion headed north to Orange Walk. She was welcomed by Deputy
Prime Minister Johnny Briceño and then travelled by motorcade to the
People's Stadium to meet with school children.
In the afternoon, she was welcomed to Belmopan by Mayor Anthony Chanona,
and met later with prime minister Said Musa in his Belmopan office.
She is also scheduled to make brief visits to Pallotti High, which her
mother attended, Sadie Vernon High, Belize Elementary School and St.
Martins School on Friday morning.
She has promised to outline how, as Belize's sports ambassador, she may
assist the development of our young athletes, at another press conference
scheduled for Friday afternoon before her departure for the United States.
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Nov 7th, 2021