He came, he saw, he conquered, just as most had expected him too, Usain Bolt lit up the final two nights of the Commonwealth Games athletics with his infectious personality and his ‘to a tee ‘dance moves, not to mention his super sprinting.
While no one expected any less from Bolt and his partners in crime, weeks of discussion around the world record holders’ appearance, opinion and everything else came to halt yesterday as the big man took the baton with ease to anchor his team to victory in a new Championship record and confirm what we already knew. As he turned Hampden Park into a carnival atmosphere similar to that of Kingston, Jamaica, without the sunshine and reggae music, fulfilling the requests of every star struck fan to get a ‘selfie’, I began to think, is this what the games is all about?
Sure it’s great for the media when he turns out, filling newspaper columns all by himself and bringing huge audiences from around the world to their TV sets. Undeniably, he brings that added wow factor to the sport and too, the fans that flocked around him, but if you look at the Commonwealth athletics for what it is, an elite track competition, and then you realise that this week was about so much more!
If it wasn’t, why would the fans that filled the stands to capacity on day 1-5, while the Jamaican sat back and soaked up the atmosphere of the games elsewhere, have turned out? These fans were fans of athletics, not just Usain Bolt. The great man’s appearance on day 6 and 7 was merely an added bonus, the icing on the cake, the honey coating on the ham. Admittedly, some may have initially bid for tickets hoping to see Bolt do his thing in the 100m or 200m but when that never came to fruition, they certainly didn’t throw their tickets in the air and stay at home.
After all, there were plenty of other star names who made the journey up to Scotland; the likes of Kirani James, Greg Rutherford, David Rudisha, Warrer Weir, Christine Ohuruogu and Blessing Okagbare to name a few, sticking to their promise and performing at their best, standing out but not to a Bolt-like standard.
Yet even then you realise, that this competition is about so much more; it’s about the breakthroughs, the rediscovery of form and the shock victories. It’s about fans of nations like England, Australia and Jamaica getting a sneak peak at what their future might look like; as the 3rd choice runner in the 5000m or the 19 year old novice in the high jump goes into her first major competition.
Yes, their appearances sometimes lower the level of performances, but surely that’s a worthy sacrifice to make for creating the perfect bridge for an athlete to go from juniors to seniors in an environment so similar to the Olympics?
With that in mind my highlights of the competition will probably vary from most. I loved the comeback and persistence of Moses Kipsiro in the 10,000m, I was thrilled by the Javelin Gold for Julius Yego of Kenya, I was amazed by the 44.57 last leg by Matt Huson-Smith to win Gold for England in the 4x400m and I was delighted by the breakthrough of Britain’s women’s sprinters.
This said, I understand the hype around Usain and I’m glad he finally completed a personal goal to run in the Commonwealth Games. So with only 3 years left to enjoy the titan in his glory before his potential retirement in 2017, perhaps it was okay for him to steal the show in what could be his only ever appearance in the competition. Just as long as you remember what came before to ignite the Hampden roar!