The vuvuzelas, air horns, ThunderStix, cheers of grown men and shrieks of teenage girls drown out even the voices in people’s minds. All one can do is watch genuine fanaticism take its course, as a jolly giant who just covered 100 meters in 9.82 seconds jogs to and fro on a berm before a sea of yellow- and green-clad patrons at Jamaica’s National Stadium.
The place is nicknamed “The Office” for the way the country’s soccer team took care of business during a 50-game unbeaten streak more than a decade ago; it is anything but officious right now, as the Big Man soaks in adulation.
Each slap of a spectator’s palm, each wave of his hand and the removal of his shirt — especially that — sends another jolt of energy through the crowd, which reverberates around the stadium and rebounds off the lush mountainside to the east before wafting into the tropical gloaming.
Usain Bolt, citizen of the world, creature of the night, ambassador of fun, is home. And on this balmy May evening, after an easy victory in the Jamaica Invitational IAAF meet, home is happy to have him. “It’s amazing to see so many people,” Bolt says, “because I live off the crowd. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
His bouncing on the berm is supposed to be a cool-down for his uncommon musculature. In actuality, it may be just a warm-up, a prelude, a literal run-through, for what everyone here hopes will happen on Aug. 6.
On that day, the nation of Jamaica will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence, its golden jubilee; and, in England, the London Olympics will hold the medal ceremony for the men’s 100-meter race. A flag will be raised for each of the top three finishers, and quite a few people in this stadium believe in their hearts that three Jamaican men will stand on those steps…