BEIJING – The man who runs forward faster than any human being in history gave the perfect response to the delusional figure of power who wants fun to have no place within the Olympic rings.
Usain Bolt's third world record and third gold medal, as part of Jamaica's 4x100-meter relay team, was almost inevitable given his previous supersonic flights around the Bird's Nest Stadium during these Games.
Yet it was with his actions and words Friday night that the Lightning Bolt again struck a flash of electricity into the hearts and minds of an awestruck world audience, many of whom are remembering what it is like to fall in love with track again.
Bolt turned 22 years old Thursday, and it would have been easy and understandable to react with obedience rather than defiance to International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge's killjoy call for him to tone down his showboating antics.
"That's not the way we perceive being a champion," Rogge said in reference to Bolt's early celebrations of his victory in the 100 meters. "I have no problem with him doing a show. I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made."
Thankfully, Bolt gave Rogge's outburst all the attention it deserved. None.
If anything, Bolt's signature arm gesture, which has no name but has been copied by thousands of fans posing for photos in the Olympic Green, had a little extra flourish. And as he lined up at the top of the back straight before the race, he posed, laughed and flashed that brilliant grin, sharing a little more of that precious personality with the crowd.
Bolt had originally wanted to run the first leg to give Jamaica a turbocharged start. However, concerns over the towering star handing over to his shorter teammate Michael Frater ended that idea. Still, by the time he collected the baton and started streaking round the top bend, Nesta Carter and Frater had done their jobs, and the world record was within Jamaica's grasp.
Then, for the final time at these Games, Bolt's giant strides ate up the track, opening up a huge lead before he handed over to anchor Asafa Powell. He followed Powell down lane five, screaming encouragement. Not that it was needed, with silver medalists Trinidad and Tobago and third-place finishers Japan trailing far behind in the Jamaicans' wake.
As Powell got to within 40 meters of the finish, Bolt's eyes were no longer looking at his colleague. They were fixed on the trackside clock. Suddenly, the mark of 37.40 seconds posted by the United States in 1993 was gone.
The world record had not been trimmed but smashed, all the way down to 37:10. It was in fitting fashion, too – at the world's greatest event, by a team featuring track's biggest superstar and an athlete we may not see the likes of again for a long time.
"A runner like Usain Bolt comes along once every 100 years," said Dr. Herb Elliott, a Jamaica team official.
Bolt is a phenomenon, just like Michael Phelps. But Bolt does not share the American swimming star's reserved demeanor. He is an entertainer who has done so much for the Olympics that he deserved lavish thanks from Rogge, not criticism.
"Usain does his thing and he is not talking anyone down," said teammate Powell, who jumped in to defend his colleague when Bolt was first asked about Rogge's remarks. "Why criticize him for doing his thing? When the United States did it for years and years, no one said a thing."
There had been suggestions from outside that Bolt and Powell may struggle to coexist on the same relay squad, but they came across Friday as part of one of the most unified teams at the Olympics.
"It was a great thing," Bolt said. "We stuck together all the way. We talked about it and I asked Asafa if we could do this (break the world record). After speaking to him, I had no doubt in my mind."
When pressed about Rogge, Bolt gave a simple and clear answer that indicated he will not lose a second's sleep over the Olympic chief's verbal foot-stomping.
"To me, I am a performer," Bolt said. "I came here to perform and to help people enjoy themselves. If you don't enjoy your job, then it makes no sense.
"I will not change. I will always be myself. That is my personality. It is just me having fun.
"The crowd looks forward to seeing me coming out. I just like to make people happy. They pay money to come and see a show."
The argument of whether it is Phelps or Bolt who is the true star of Beijing will run on for some time. In reality, both men fully deserve the tag, yet there is no dispute over who is the character of these Olympics.
It's just moronic that Jacques Rogge would try to silence him.
- Jacques Rogge
- Usain Bolt