Into the pot of, perhaps, the best Olympic games ever staged has been added the sweetest spices. They come in the form of a little Caribbean Island and its immaculate sprinters.
Descendants of West African slaves have now become kings and queens of global sports. With a population of some two and a half million people huddled in this little region of several islands between the two Americas, Jamaica, has become the toast of the world, attracting unprecedented attention, respect and adulation.
The performances of Jamaican sprinters have left the rest of the world in awe.
If any one person epitomized the best part of the London Olympics it would be Usain Bolt. Yet he broke no records.
And if any one country captures the essence of the Olympics better than others it would be Jamaica. Yet it is not at the top of the medals table. But at the end of the games it resonates best in the minds of people around the world. So what is it about Usain Bolt and Jamaica that stands them out above all others?
The personality of Bolt before the games provided the prospect of a drama such as has never been seen before at any Olympics. After Beijing 2008 he had emerged into the world’s consciousness a unique character – very likeable, playful, extremely friendly, and a showman with a prodigious talent in sprinting. He was the best the world had ever seen. A god! Unbeatable!
So, on the eve of the London games came along another that threatened to demystify Usain – Yohan Blakes, his friend, fellow countryman and training partner. Blakes committed the ‘capital sin’ of doing what was considered ‘impossible’ by beating Bolt twice in a row at national and international meets. Who was this ‘pretender’ that was threatening to bring down a god from his throne above Mt. Olympus? Who the hell was this Blake? Blake shocked the world into attention.
Thus was set the stage for the greatest athletics confrontation in Olympic history. The nature of this rivalry fascinated and captured the imagination of the world. It was a perfect script and drama, and the world was gripped in anticipation of what would happen. The confrontations over 100 and 200 meters, now epics that will be recounted over and over again for a long time to come, became the two most followed events of any Olympic games.
Jamaica did not come even near the top on the medals table. None of its athletes broke a world or Olympic record. Yet, as the games now draw to a close, aside from Great Britain whose athletes were buoyed by the power of great athletics preparations and unprecedented crowd support to put up superlative performances across many sports, Jamaica is the most talked-about country at these games. The reason lies in the style of their successes and the magnitude of media attention they attracted. For the two days that the 100 and 200 meters took place little else that took place mattered much. Even the best Track and Field performance of the games, the world record breaking 800 meters run of Kenya’s David Rudisha, was relegated into second place by Bolt/Blake part 2. Rudisha is even now been described as the ‘Usain Bolt of the 800 meters’!!
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