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London’s Olympic Park turns theatre for Bolt ‘the showman’

A live audience of close to 80,000 people at the Olympic Park Stadium in addition to an estimated two billion TV audience watched Usain Bolt decimate the field

V Krishnaswamy
London

There has seldom been a showman like Usain Bolt. And on Sunday 5 August night, the Olympic Park stadium was his theatre. Slow off the blocks, almost as if awakening from a slumber, Bolt stood up into a position that is ideal for accelerating and from there on took as if he was on a jet plane, an idea that he keeps showing while gesticulating to the adoring public.

‘The Bow,’ now his trademark after a win, followed and the crowd stood waiting for him to repeat it. Again and again and again. And Bolt obliged.

In the four years that have elapsed since his ‘Bolt from the Blue’ at Beijing when he clocked 9.58 seconds, Bolt has seen it all. Elevation to stardom like no athlete has seen before, a disqualification in a World Championship final for false start and a defeat at the hands of a younger colleague in his country’s internal trials. Add to them the niggles that are part and parcel of high-performance athletes.

Four years ago when the athletics world was hit by Bolt, there was ‘arrogance’ in his gait; his run and the finish. This time around, all that was conspicuous by its absence. He had a job to finish and he did in a hurry, though not in as much of a hurry as in 2008 – 9.69 seconds this time compared to 9.58 seconds at Beijing.

A live audience of close to 80,000 people at the Olympic Park Stadium in addition to an estimated two billion TV audience watched Bolt decimate the field. He was among slowest off the blocks, but once he took off, he simply flew down the straight.

Strange as it may sound, Yohan Blake, the man who won the world title when Bolt was disqualified at the World Championships last year, and one who beat him in the trials in Jamaica, clocked his personal best. Yet it was 12 hundredth of a second slower than Bolt, who clocked 9.63 seconds to Blake’s 9.75. Translated into distance it was almost two yards. America’s Justin Gatlin won bronze at 9.79 seconds.

The race may well have gone down in history as the first when all finalists came under 10 seconds. But Asafa Powell, a superstar in his own right, and one who has broken the 10 seconds barrier more than any other sprinter in history, pulled a muscle 40 metres into the race and hobbled home in 11.99 seconds. Trinidad’s Richard Thompson, silver medalist four years ago in Beijing, clocked 9.98 seconds, but was good enough only for seventh place.

Once the business of winning the race was done with, Bolt spent more than two hours giving interviews, late into the night and then it was time to celebrate. The Jamaican party had already begun in Brixton, where the majority of Jamaicans in Britain live. The pubs and bars had already been celebrating Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain. Bolt made it all the more sweeter, as Bob Marley’s hits kept the night alive till wee hours of Monday 6 August.

Vishwanathan Krishnaswamy is a senior sports journalist. 
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