THE world’s fastest man yesterday issued a swift rebuttal of claims he had made disparaging remarks about Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, describing the reports as “lies”.
Usain Bolt, the record-breaking Jamaican sprinter credited with sprinkling stardust on Glasgow 2014, denied describing the event as “a bit shit”.
His manager also rejected the quotes attributed to Bolt by a journalist for the Times newspaper, branding them “utter rubbish”.
With the track star due to perform for the first time before a Scottish crowd tomorrow, when he lines up in the first round of the men’s 4x100m relay at Hampden Park, the unseemly row cast a cloud over his much-anticipated participation.
Since arriving in Glasgow on Saturday, the sprinter has largely remained in the athletes village at Dalmarnock in the city’s east end, but on Wednesday a reporter for the Scottish edition of the newspaper said she spoke to Bolt after he had met members of the Royal Family.
The newspaper claimed Bolt had said he thought the Games were “a bit shit” and that he was “not really” having fun during his stay in the city.
The paper also claimed Bolt said he thought “the Olympics were better” than the Games.
However, Bolt – a six-time Olympic champion – took to Twitter to rubbish the report, sparking a day of claims and counter-claims.
“I’m waking up to this nonsense,” he wrote. “Journalist please don’t create lies to make headlines.”
Bolt’s manager, Ricky Simms, said: “The atmosphere in and around the stadiums has been absolutely fantastic and I have absolutely no idea where these quotes have come from.”
The 27-year-old sprinter, regarded as one of the world’s best ever athletes, yesterday visited the SECC to watch Jamaica’s women’s netball team lose in their match against New Zealand.
Sitting in the crowd beside his teammates and wearing a black hoodie with black wraparound shades on his head, he seemed at ease.
He posed for photographs, signed autographs and even joined in with a Mexican wave.
At one point, an image of the Olympic champion was shown on the SECC’s big screen, and it was met with a loud cheer from the crowd. The sprinter smiled in return.
As he left the arena, he waved a Jamaican flag and, when asked by reporters how he felt about the Games, shouted: “Awesome!”
The Times, which said the interview had taken place while Bolt was waiting in the rain for his car to arrive, insisted its story was accurate.
The newspaper’s Scottish editor, Angus Macleod, said: “We stand by this story 100 per cent. We have utter confidence in this story.”
It is understood the reporter who wrote the story has “verbatim notes” of her conversation with Bolt.
Those close to Bolt said he was not unhappy in Glasgow, but was perhaps frustrated at being confined to the athletes village for such an extended period.
Laurel Smith, press attaché for the Jamaican Commonwealth Games team, said Bolt may have been annoyed at being unable to “roam about” on account of his celebrity status.
He went on: “But it was like that at London 2012. He basically goes to training and comes back. You can only play so many video games in your room. He’s a free spirit, but it requires security organisation when he wants to roam.
“He even gets a bagman to get his food from the canteen because it would create too much of a stir if he was there. But one thing is for sure, he is enjoying himself in Glasgow.”
Commonwealth Games minister Shona Robison leapt to the defence of the Jamaican star.
She said: “Usain Bolt has described the comments in the media as nonsense and dismissed them outright.
“Glasgow is fantastic and the Games have been amazing on so many fronts – so well organised and a great experience for everyone involved. That is what everyone who has been here has said.”
Responding to the newspaper article, a spokesman for the Commonwealth Games Federation said Glasgow 2014 had been a success.
“The Games have so far been fantastic and everyone there, including the competing athletes, seems to be having a brilliant time,” he said. “Usain Bolt must just be having an off-day.”
The federation later said it was “pleased” with Bolt’s response to the report, with chief executive Mike Hooper saying it would “take Mr Bolt at his word”. He added: We’re very pleased with how he’s responded, and that’s our position.”
Mr Hooper also said Bolt was in good spirits, referring to his press conference at the SECC on Saturday.
He said: “He’s very upbeat, very positive, very focused on delivering for his fellow countrymen in the relay events. He has said what he’s said and I don’t wish to comment on the journalistic work of the Times.
“We’re not trying to be the Olympic Games. We’re about the celebration of the Commonwealth, sport and culture within the Commonwealth, and what a fantastic event we are seeing here in Glasgow. These Games continue to go from strength to strength.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014, said: “I think he [Bolt] woke up to the story like everyone else. His tweet says it all. He has woken up to something he didn’t believe he said yesterday.”
The quotes attributed to Bolt would not be the first time a member of the Caribbean nation’s contingent has hinted that all is not well in Glasgow.
His fellow sprinter, Jason Livermore, said the weather in the city had been “tough” although he and his compatriots were “enjoying the Games” and “honestly we can’t complain”.
Asked about life in the athletes village, he said: “Well, it can be better – things can be a little bit better for us, can be better in a lot of sense. We have to just enjoy and give God thanks.”