Sat | Jan 20, 2018

100m race the great leveller

Published:Monday | August 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Is the Olympic 100 metres an equal opportunity provider?

Across the world, the iconic confidence of Bolt and the effervescence of Elaine Thompson have done wonders to inspire the youth, and to enliven older generations. However, the excitement of the Olympic 100m event underscores mankind's unrelenting obsession with achieving human equality.

First, the 100m propagates global parity at the Olympics because it comprises top athletes from both the developed and developing nations. No other sport but the 100m can stake a claim for highlighting superstars from the so-called Third World and the G8 hegemons. Not to be outdone, Trinidad and Tobago and, to a greater extent, Jamaica have nurtured golden sprinters in spite of possessing small populations and tiny economies.

Second, sprinting, as a sport, seems to be inclusive of all classes of people, unlike many other Olympic sports like gymnastics and swimming, where athletes must fund their own development at a young age. Sprinting the 100m in an open field is possible for a child, until he or she is sorted and streamlined to gain access to better facilities.

Third, Jamaica's dominance in the 100m since Beijing 2008 showcases its self-sufficiency in sprinting. For example, no NCAA track meet in the US can boast the alumni and local grass-roots backing demonstrated at Jamaica's high-school track and field competition, Champs.

The Olympic 100m race is no panacea to cure the ills of deprivation and underdevelopment. Nevertheless, either out of escapism or a profound sense of empathy, we indulge in the fantasy of support.