Giant on the move
‘Insane Usain’ sets my first Games alight
As Usain Bolt coasted past my press seat in a burst of speed and swagger on Saturday night, splaying his arms and pumping his chest as he crossed the 100 metres finish line, it was just the buzz everyone had promised me from my first Olympics.
I was there to report on the atmosphere at the Games’ blue riband event, but involuntarily found myself screaming encouragement, then laughing in joy and awe. As he ran around the track in delighted celebration, I was close to tears.
Here was the showman and the hero athletics has been crying out for, and I had been there to see it for myself.
I had been a fan of the Olympics as a small boy, and I still remember the ease and grace with which Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena won the men’s 400 and 800 metres in Montreal in 1976.
But the money, and the doping, gradually killed the romance for me.
The last 100 metres final I remember vividly was the classic showdown between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis in Seoul in 1988. When Johnson was found to have taken drugs, the spell was broken.
Then, in 10 seconds, or should I say 9.69 seconds, of sporting genius, I was entranced again.
To be fair, it has not just been about Bolt.
I saw the ease and elegance of Michael Phelps in his first race, watched women’s synchronised divers Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin drawing gasps and applause from their first dive and on the spur of the moment popped in to see the Chinese women’s gymnastics team sailing through the air like imps.
Sport would also not be complete without a big dose of controversy, but I have to admit I was a little surprised when the coach of the Australian women’s waterpolo team told me the referees were “stupid” and “arseholes”.
Nor was I really expecting it when a Swedish greco-roman wrestler lay his bronze medal down on the mat in protest at the refereeing and walked out of the arena — and out of the sport — with his fist raised.
In the end, though, it is the sporting excellence, the drama and the genius which has really captivated me. Not to mention “insane” Usain Bolt.
PHOTO: Usain Bolt of Jamaica is congratulated by fans after winning the men’s 100m final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Hans Deryk