LONDON – Long after the Legend of London delivered another gold medal for Jamaica, long after he ran away from a pack of outclassed opponents, this time as the anchor of a 4x100 relay that would bust the world record with a time of 36.85, long after he accomplished his historic goal of defending three championships here, long after he thrilled 80,000 in Olympic Stadium and millions across the globe, from English castles to poor third world streets, Usain Bolt was asked about Jacques Rogge.
Rogge is the president of the International Olympic Committee who conducts himself with all of the tact, understanding and compassion of a falling safe. If Bolt is what is best about the Olympics, Rogge is what’s worst.
Thursday Rogge was asked by reporters about Bolt, who would on Saturday win his third gold medal and thus become the first man to ever defend his titles in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay.
Rogge, as is his character, decided to sniff at the concept that Usain Bolt, while certainly a star, could yet be called a “legend,” the very word Bolt set as his goal coming in here. This was the principal holding back praise for the kid with the perfect grades because, well, because that’s what powerful people do when they feel threatened.
“The career of Usain Bolt has to be judged when the career stops,” Rogge told reporters. “If you look at the career of Carl Lewis, he had [four] consecutive games with a medal. Let Usain Bolt be free of injury, let him keep his motivation which I think will be the case, let him participate in three, four games, and he can be a legend.”
[Photos: Usain Bolt]
Right, do it for me again. Make me more money again.
Rogge went on to cite British rower Steve Redgrave and sailor Ben Ainslie, according to the Independent newspaper, as legends. They won gold in five and four Olympics respectively.
A sailor? Oh, Jacques, how perfect.
"You have to be there, you have to be at the top for almost 20 years,” Rogge said.
Look, call those guys legends all you want. Amazing accomplishment. Tremendous sportsman. Spread the praise all around. It doesn’t even remotely compare to Usain Bolt or competing in the sprints against his field of competitors.
You want a legend? Here’s a legend. With three legs of Saturday’s 4x100 complete, Jamaica and the United States were essentially tied, Bolt getting the baton perhaps an instant ahead of American Ryan Bailey.
From that point on Bolt blew past Bailey, hitting a speed that is almost unspeakable, causing Olympic Stadium to nearly come unglued and eventually charging through the finish line with a world record despite cool and windy conditions. No one who witnessed it will ever forget.
The Americans ran 37.04, which tied the old world record. So no team ever, in the history of earth, ran faster than the United States did Saturday. And they still lost by about three meters.
“He was basically the difference in the team,” said American Justin Gatlin. “We were even through three. When he got the stick there was nothing we could do about it.
You want a legend? Here’s a legend.
It's Tyson Gay weeping after finishing fourth in the 100-meter to Bolt, realizing that no matter what he does, he can’t really compete. “I tried, man,” Gay said. “I tried my best.”
It's Bailey, shrugging at the helpless feeling of watching Bolt just run away from him in the relay? “He’s a monster,” Bailey said.
It's the look on Yohan Blake’s face when in both the 100 and 200 he watched his countryman just toy with him despite running a personal best in one and a season’s best in the other. Blake is the second fastest man on the planet and he isn’t in Bolt’s category.
[Photos: Track and field fashion statements]
“When he starts to open that stride,” Blake said. “He is not normal.”
That’s not a legend? He has to do it a couple more times?
Look, in the scale of insults this ranks low – not being called a “legend” isn’t exactly Facebook bullying – unless you know Rogge’s background with Bolt.
Rogge has never been much of a fan. This isn’t new ground. It was worse in Beijing, when the bureaucrat scolded Bolt’s “sportsmanship” for celebrating his victories an instant before crossing the finish line.
[Related: Bolt's 'wow' moment makes enemy of Rogge]
Never mind he was setting world records anyway or that the showmanship was turning athletics into must-see TV across the globe or that he was inspiring a new generation of athletes. Forget that the overabundance of excitement is simply how Bolt – and many of the free-spirited Caribbean sprinters – operate.
Forget that. Rogge and his organization have made billions off of athletes but once they step out of some elitist definition of “sport” – one that still think the pastimes of the wealthy such as dressage and sailing are equal to primal pursuits such as a sprint – then they snap.
The only thing bigger than Bolt’s stride is his personality. He was everywhere Saturday night, everywhere these entire games. He knew they came to see him and he put on a show in every imaginable way.
He entertained with introductory dances, hand signs and beaming face. He joked during press conferences. He kidded with competitors. He repeatedly mocked all the dumb IOC “rules.”
After the 4x100 he tried to make off with the baton, a pretty sweet bit of memorabilia to take home to the people of Jamaica. Instead it was seized under threat of disqualification.
[Related: Yohan Blake's $500,000 racing watch]
“[The official] said I can’t keep it because it was the rule,” Bolt said, rolling his eyes at the ridiculousness.
He eventually got the baton back.
At the end of the relay he honored Britain’s 5,000-meter gold medalist Mo Farah by doing his “Mobot” move – using his hands to form the letter M above his heads. The British crowd went wild, loving Bolt even more than they thought imaginable. Of course, Farah created the maneuver after a TV host asked him to match Bolt’s signature fake bow and arrow pull.
Eventually the two of them wound up on top of the podium doing each other’s deal and laughing hysterically about it.
It was like a vortex of all things Jacques Rogge hates.
These are the Olympics. This is serious. I’ll decide who is and isn’t a legend.
The IOC makes the NCAA seem like the girl scouts. It sits on $1.6 billion in assets. It pays all of Rogge’s expenses at an estate in Switzerland. It has all these champagne clowns walking around patting each other on the backs while the fans tune in night after night for mega-stars who aren’t given a cut of the money.
And yet given the chance to express an ounce of gratitude, to act like an excited fan the way the rest of the world is, to give a nod of respect for a guy who just did what no man ever has in a manner no man could ever imagine, Jacques Rogge just couldn’t help but act small.
So, yes, Usain Bolt, in his greatest moment, after calling his shot, setting the bar and then accomplishing it, just after being the lovable personality that makes this entire enterprise work, had to be asked about the ignorance of the patronizing, pretentious head of the Olympics.
"For me, I would respond by asking him a question," Bolt said. "What else do I need to do?
“I'm the world record holder in both events [the 100 and 200-meters]. I've broken the world record a couple of times. I'm the Olympic champion. Twice. In both events. I'm world champion. I've done everything that is possible to do in my events.
“So what is there I need to do?”
Maybe take up sailing?
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