Bolt, Fraser-Pryce add gloss to Commonwealth Games
Next year's Commonwealth Games is looking better all the time. First, the incomparable Usain Bolt puts the Glasgow hosted multi-sport carnival on his 2014 calendar. As if that wasn't enough, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has Glasgow on her agenda too.
It's great news for the Scots and for Jamaican sports fans too. The hosts get a real boost. Bolt fills stadia wherever he goes and the little lady has her own following. Their presence will bring some star quality to the Games next July.
Jamaican fans can jump for joy too. To get selected for Glasgow, that terrific pair and all the other Jamaican luminaries will have to run at the 2014 National Championships. Often, in seasons with no Olympics or World Championships, our big stars skip the Nationals; 2014 will be different.
Since the IAAF inaugurated the World Championships in 1983, the Commonwealth Games and the Pan-Am Games have lost their lustre. Before then, the Olympics was a world championship that happened every four years. With the professional athletics circuit not yet at the high level it is now, continental Games were hugely important. The World Championships changed all that.
Tricky schedules haven't helped either. The last Commonwealth Games and Pan-Am Games were held in October 2010 and 2011, respectively. Typically, the track and field season is finished early in September and athletes are resting with training for the new season to start late in October or early November.
Usain and Shelly-Ann have given Glasgow some prestige. They, and other stars who I think will follow suit, probably love the July-August schedule for the 2014 Games. There are no conflicts with the lucrative Diamond League circuit either. With leeway on either side of the Games, athletes can get to Glasgow fresh and rested and they can recharge their batteries for the second half of the Diamond League.
That's a double plus.
Imagine a Commonwealth Games with a fit-again David Rudisha in the 800m, Asbel Kiprop in the 1500m, the Olympic champion Bahamas 4x400m, Shelly-Ann versus Blessing Okagbare, Kirani James, world champions Eunice Sum, Janeth Jepkosgei and Caster Semenya duelling over 800m, and high jumpers Derek Drouin and Robbie Grabarz.
If you are a throws fan, there's the unbeatable Valerie Adams, former world champion Dani Samuels, and Jacko Gills, World Youth and Junior shot winner.
Throw in a possible Christine Ohuruogu/Amantle Montsho 400-metre rematch, and Sally Pearson and a fine crew of Canadians in the sprint hurdles and you have the makings of a great meet.
The Commonwealth Games aren't only about track and field. From a Jamaican standpoint, netball, swimming, table tennis and badminton all benefit greatly from experiences gained at these Games.
Track and field, however, is the centrepiece of all the multi-sport carnivals, including the Olympics, and if Bolt goes, Glasgow is sitting pretty. His presence, and Shelly-Ann's, could well be worth the price of the admission.