Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Boltmania in The Bahamas

Published:Monday | May 4, 2015 | 3:49 PMLaurie Foster

Another major athletics championships has come and gone.

The Bahamian city of Nassau, where legal casino gambling attracts the rich and famous, was the venue chosen by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It was a back-to-back situation, the event having had its inaugural staging at the same place last year.

Clearly the IAAF is impressed and sold on the entire scenario with the location. Point to note: tremendous crowd support and natives to whom courtesy and plain making-the-visitors-feel-welcome are part of a hospitality culture to be admired.

Foster’s Fairplay, a long time visitor to and reporter at IAAF elite events, was once again a specially invited guest of the custodians of the event, the world governing body. Courtesies, privileges and the luxury of high-end service marked the occasion.

Any foray from the Royal Towers residence for the four-day period, a part of the Atlantis Hotel complex, was facilitated by riding in a courtesy vehicle driven by a uniformed member of the Royal Bahamian Defence Force.

It was regal stuff and made the hardships of reporting with tight deadlines seem of little impact. “Thank you, IAAF.”

In addition, it needs to be repeated that Jamaican organisers of sporting events, financial constraints accepted, need to see this noble profession of sports journalism and its practitioners as a helping hand, in their execution of functions, and not a hindrance.

The action in the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium was exciting as well as it was riveting. As a leadup, the announcement that track and field legend Usain Bolt would be marked present, sent the interest into another planet.

He was a no-show last year and his 2015 participation would send interest and ticket sales to astronomical levels.

The fever pitch fervour amongst the locals could be felt from this columnist arrived at the Airport in Nassau, named in honour of a former Prime Minister, Sir Lynden A. Pindling International.

“Him come?, him come?,” were the shouted queries as passengers exited the Customs hall.

The army/navy petty officer who transported, while saying “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go, Sir.”

The volunteers, every person engaged a sim card and phone credit to do assignments, were sought, the food stop employees and the bell man and his fellow workers to the posh, palatial and prestigious Atlantis.

The Bolt mania had hit The Bahamas.

All this journalist, who became the target for all these queries, could say was that “his parents were on the flight”.

It was the first meeting with them, since their now world renowned son was crowned the 2008 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year for his Beijing Olympics heroics.

They both had added significantly to what was even then a model of dignity and decency, not always typical of those who have had fame and fortune come to them unexpectedly.

To the wild cheering of a swell-the-park gathering, Bolt ran both rounds of the 4x100m on Day One.

It took a United States of America (USA) foursome of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey - indeed that heavy artillery - to prevent the mass crowd from realising their pre-Champs dream - a victorious anchor leg effort by the great man.

In the 4x200m on the final day, he no-showed, a repeat to last year when he did not even board the plane to the inaugural staging. Then, a world record ensued, with sidekick Yohan Blake on the final leg.

It would have been for the Jamaican massive, the high point of WRC II that the team of Nickel Ashmeade, Rasheed Dwyer, Jason Livermore and Warren Weir took gold, with their two fastest all-time at the individual distance not on the track.