Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Life after Bolt

Published:Tuesday | December 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Usain Bolt has made a record-shattering assault on the art of world sprinting. As a result, Foster's Fairplay has gained considerable knowledge about the sporting phenomenon that manifests itself in the person of someone who is arguably the greatest athlete ever. What has been driven home does not necessarily refer to the undisputed legend's persona and attitude as a remarkable champion, which, many in their ignorance of the weight carried through accolades, consider to be private. It goes a lot wider and deeper. The mere mention of the name of the man who has catapulted Jamaica into unprecedented global recognition gives rise to an avalanche of comment. At present, there is much talk as to what will befall the sport after he exits the stage.

This columnist is experiencing much difficulty with some of what is being said. It is being hinted in some quarters that when the big man takes his well-earned respite from track and field, which he has decorated for 15 years, it will globally take a nose dive. The prediction gets worse depending on the source. Some say that with the departure of the global entrepreneur, come star boy, the sport will go into a wither-and-die mode.

Foster's Fairplay understands the frightening sentiments as expressed. Any loss of such magnitude has the potential to cause widespread disappointment as that which brought much pleasure and satisfaction is no longer there. A feeling of longing and emptiness can linger for much longer, especially for those who consider themselves part of the fabric of the sport and who earn a living by its existence. There can be no doubt that a track and field, bereft of the Bolt factor, can have this impact. After all, the Jamaican hero has been like a magnet attracting droves to the different arenas in which he plies his trade. Many of those who gather at the venues of Bolt's performances go there to make money for employers as well as self. With the superhero missing, chances are the pie will be less sweet.




Anyone who would dispute the revered esteem in which Bolt is held and his ability to rake in dollars not only for himself, but those for whom he brings to the stage, has only got to take a look at a recent invitation. It came from Lord Sebastien Coe, the head of the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). In full recognition of the points being made here about a Bolt-less future for track and field, the former track star has extended an invitation to the triple Olympic gold medal tripler to make himself available to play a role after he steps away from action on the track. Whether the mighty one accepts or not, the abiding respect and high regard for his image is embedded in the request.

All this might tempt the reader to form the view that without Bolt, the vault containing all the treasures will be left bare. However, that is not how it is seen from this vantage point. Sports is an evolving entity. Stars appear on the landscape on a recurring basis over any given period. They may not be of the same quality, and few will take the onlookers to the level of excitement and ecstasy as Bolt has done. As long as there is competition among those that remain and others to come, the sport will live on and continue to thrive.

It is for the IAAF to appreciate the need to bolster what some see as a shaky structure with the main pillar now preparing to absent itself. Lord Coe has made a proper move. Let us hope that Bolt accepts and will provide some solace to those who view his impending retirement as descending doom. Let the Government and the country's administrators in the sport, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, recognise what they had and from whom they derived immeasurable benefit and worldwide acclaim - this outstanding icon, Usain St Leo Bolt. Tributes should be paid accordingly.

Let us all celebrate the achievements of this great man and the impact that he has made on the sport, and by extension, to our lives as Jamaicans.

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