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The Bolt legacy debate

Thursday, August 16, 2012    

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LONDON, England - Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the de facto most powerful man in sports on the globe says Usain Bolt's dominance over the last two Olympics Games and the two IAAF World Championships in between, does not make him a legend.

Not yet, at least.

Mr Rogge who took over the job in 2001 from Juan Antonio Samaranch who ruled the roost for 21 years is well aware that his words are taken seriously and his every public utterance recorded for posterity, hence when he voiced his opinion on the athlete who dominated headlines in every corner of the globe for two weeks, he must have understood the repercussions of what he was saying.

While Mr Rogge might have been speaking to Bolt's result on the track and comparing them with swimmer Michael Phelps who has won a staggering 22 Olympic Medals through three Olympic Games, and track and field athlete Carl Lewis, who won nine gold medals over four Olympiads, none of them had the impact that Bolt has had over these past four years.

OK, so let's agree for the sake of agreeing with Rogge that Bolt needs another Olympic Games to cement his status as an Olympic legend with three more gold medals and who knows how many World Records, his body of work right now puts him at least on par with the best there ever was.

True, no one talks more about Bolt being a legend than Bolt himself, and while that may seem the wrong thing to do, Mohammed Ali started calling himself 'The Greatest' before anyone else did and now it is widely accepted that he is infact, The Greatest.

Maybe the next time Rogge finds time for lunch or a Coke with IAAF president Lamine Diack, he can truly understand what Bolt has meant to track and field and to the Olympics on a whole.

Yes, his lightning fast feet would have taken him to the six gold medals he has won with four World Records but it is the entertainment value that he brings to the track meets that has returned the sport to the spectator event that it used to be.

Bolt's irresistible charm and antics before, during and after races has attracted people to the sports who would not normally have time for track and field— both young and old from all corners of the globe.

Like no other before him, he has captivated the world's attention and unlike most, seems to have the innate ability to use it to his benefit, as if feeding off the attention he gets makes him perform even better.

How many American athletes does US President Barrack Obama makes reference to in his campaign speech? Maybe Mr Rogge doesn't have the time to read the newspapers or social network sites to see top entertainers from Sir Paul McCartney and A-list actors imitation his signature pose and posing for photos with him.

It was impossible to avoid questions about Bolt even before journalists got to the United Kingdom, as even while covering the World Junior Championships in Barcelona Spain over a month ago, everyone wanted to know whether he was ready to defend his titles.

The Jamaican Trials had attracted dozens of overseas journalists, maybe more then who travelled to the US Trails that same weekend; the Jamaican pre-Olympic training camp in Birmingham attracted dozens trying to catch a glimpse of Bolt, while the JOA/Puma press conference attracted nearly 400 journalists to east London a week before the start of the Olympics.

Certainly Mr Rogge might be missing something here.

The average waiting time for athletes to arrive where the print press was located in the mixed zone at the Olympics was an average 15 minutes. After his 100m win on August 5, it took Bolt nearly two hours to negotiate the media t get to the end of the line.

His influence on his fellow competitors should give you an indication of how he has changed the face of track and field.

Bolt stops to chat with the youngsters who are selected to carry the baskets with their warm up gear, even hugging them, giving away small tokens; his antics before races is now well known and while it used to annoy the track purists, suddenly others are creating their own pre-race routines, playing to the camera and the crowds.

Mo Farrah, a double god medalists at the Olympics Games who happens to share the same agent as Bolt, was unknown to most track fans outside of the UK and Europe; after all his specialities are the 5,000m and 10,000m and he was not known for his 'antics'.

Yet after winning his second gold medal, there he was on the track doing crunches, in response to Bolt's push ups after the 100m and has his own 'MoBot' sign, two hands over his head making a 'M sign', also in response to Bolt's 'To the World' signature pose.

Of course we have all seen Yohan Blake's 'Beast' signs before each race and who knows who will come up with what next.

So while Mr Rogge being the skilful lawyer that he is, could win an argument that dominating two Olympic Games doesn't necessarily make you a legend, he might want to go back and revisit the evidence once more.

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