Highlights — 21 December 2016 — by Adele Ramos
Simone Biles, celebrated Olympic gymnast, arrives in Belize this Thursday

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 19, 2016–Simone Biles, 19, the US gymnast with Belizean citizenship who famously snagged 4 gold medals at the recent Rio Olympics, is due to arrive in Belize this Thursday, December 22, when she will be welcomed with a grand motorcade through the main streets of Belize City.

Biles, who has received the 2016 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year Award for breaking new ground, is “the first American and fifth female to win four gymnastics gold medals at a single Games,” according to the BBC.

Biles is connected with Belize, which is one of her favorite destinations to relax, because Nellie Biles, the daughter of the late Silas Cayetano, a Garifuna man of Belize, adopted Simone and her sister in 2001. Simone is the biological granddaughter of Nellie’s husband, Ron, an American. Her biological mother is Shanon Biles.

Karen Bevans, director of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), told Amandala that a press conference will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza on the Philip Goldson Highway when Biles arrives on Thursday, December 22. Afterwards, she will be featured in a motorcade starting at 4:00 p.m. from the hotel to Cemetery Road via Central American Boulevard, and from there the motorcade will proceed into Orange Street, Albert Street, Regent Street and then to the Battlefield Park, for a welcome ceremony. See route HERE.

On August 11, the BTB made a public offer via Twitter to Biles and the US gymnastics team, known as the Final Five. The tweet said: “Congrats @simone_biles! Belize is so proud of you. We’d love to host you and the entire #FinalFive on a vacation once you’re ready to relax.”

Biles replied: “my second home, you betta belize we’re coming…”

Bevans said that whereas the Final 5 could not coordinate their schedules to make this a reality for the entire team, Biles is able to make it and she will be arriving at the airport with her family on Thursday.

On Thursday night, Biles will be hosted at a dinner by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

Biles is expected to stay for a week, during which she will get a chance to see more of the country.

Before her departure on December 29, she will host a motivational session for selected young sports enthusiasts in Belize. Schools across the country were invited to submit names.

“We are extremely pleased that this has materialized,” Bevans told us.

“We have done many of these tweets as a marketing strategy, and this is one of the first to become a reality. We intend to continue with this trend to bring positive publicity for Belize as a destination,” she added.

The international press, including US Today, had picked up the story of Belize “striking gold” with the offer to Biles, who has over ten times as many followers on Twitter than the BTB.

Although Biles is not being accompanied this time by her other teammates—Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian—Bevans told our newspaper that they are still welcome to take up the BTB’s offer.

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