Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Editorial | Bolt among gods of athletics

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2016 | 8:00 AM

Usain Bolt didn't need the Rio Olympics to prove that he was the greatest sprinter of all time. It merely provided the appropriate stage for the formal confirmation of the obvious.

Indeed, Bolt holds the world records for the 100m and 200m and a string of individual gold medals for these events, as well as in the 4x100 relays at the Olympics and the World Championships. But the Olympics is special. For all the controversies the Games - and those in Rio more than most - sometimes face, we imbue them with transcendence. They are beyond the ordinary, embracing the highest values of the human spirit.

So, Bolt's feat on Sunday, unprecedented in the modern Games - of a third consecutive victory in the 100 metres - fits into, and feeds on, this narrative of exceptionalism. Ironically, it might not be presumptuous, given the crisis of drugs in global athletics, to suggest that the transcendence, really, is the gift of Bolt. He is the god that carries the Games.

Not only is Usain Bolt an exceptional athlete, but there is no question about the legitimacy of his performances. He has not been touched by the drug scandals that have tainted so many athletes, bringing the sport into disrepute. Yet, Bolt brings something more to the table: a charismatic affability that brings to the Games a sense of inclusion and belonging. He gives ownership and participation not only to the gods, but to the mortals whom they serve.

Performance and character would long since have cemented Bolt's legendary status. But he is likely, on Wednesday, to extend this achievement to the 200 metres. And there are grand possibilities, too, in the 4x100 relay.

Surely, Usain Bolt's throne is secure in the place where the gods of athletics reside.