AS the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles was blasted out over the PA system at Hampden Usain Bolt entered into the spirit of things.
He was already out on the track waiting for the men’s 4x100m final to get going but as his moves were beamed on to the big screens, he jigged and shimmied, he strutted his disco moves and then, appropriately, he pulled the running man move out of the bag.
The crowd lapped it up and he beamed.
If he was having a rubbish time, he hid it well.
He was in a carnival mood but when the baton was finally handed to him, to head off on the final leg of the race in the hope of completing his collection and adding a Commonwealth gold to all his other medals, he was only in the mood to win. Marginally in the lead when he set off, he left all challengers with a view of his back as he sped off, extending the lead over England and Trinidad & Tobago, who finished second and third respectively, with every stride and setting a new games record.
It was vintage Bolt. He had passed up the chance to compete in the individual events, instead choosing to make his Commonwealth Games debut in the relay but although that was a team event, only one man mattered as far as the supporters were concerned. That was obvious from the minute he entered the arena. The rumblings went round the stadium as those with the best vantage point to view his arrival rose to their feet clapping and cheering. It rippled round the ground. Ever the entertainer, he faked a trip and then broke into a wide grin as camera flashes exploded in response.
Even the 4x400m finalists who were lined up at the podium for the start of their medal ceremony couldn’t resist a sneaky peak and as he jogged down past them to stretch his legs they craned their necks to get a close-up view of the most famous athlete in the world.
The 27-year-old wandered back up to his starting position and milked the lull in proceedings, chatting and playing up to the crowd. It was the kind of charm offensive he excels at. With iPads, phones and cameras trained on him, capturing his every move, he gave the fans what they were looking for. He struck the lightning bolt pose. They squealed and he responded by applauding them. The only time he resisted the urge was when England’s Games anthem, Jerusalem, was blasted out over the speakers, respecting the efforts of his fellow competitors, who had triumphed in the 4x400m.
After the heats Bolt had described Glasgow and the athletics crowds as brilliant and last night they showed that there was mutual appreciation. Not only did he give a perfect demonstration of his sprinting ability, he spent an age doing the lap of honour, indulging his fans, posing for hundreds of photos and getting up close for selfie after selfie, with the people who had braved the torrential rain to turn up and cheer him.
By the time he had completed his journey round the stadium, he was decked out in tartan scarves and an oversized bunnet. It was possibly some wag’s way of trying to keep him warm, given the fact he had voiced his dislike of the country’s cold weather, much to the amusement of many locals who have enjoyed one of the city’s hottest spells in recent weeks. He was also said to have been scathing about the Games as a whole.
The world and Olympic champion has made big play of the fact he would never use the derogatory word attributed to him by a national newspaper earlier this week. Maybe so, but even the locals would have forgiven him a few expletives when he turned up at Hampden last night.
After all if his only complaint thus far really has been the weather they he must have been thoroughly miffed by the conditions which greeted him and his teammates as they attempted to warm up on the training track ahead of the race he was determined to win. Chilled before, he must have feared being drowned last night such was the unrelenting nature of the rain that drenched the national stadium and left pools collecting in the infield and runners sploshing through puddles on the track.
But he covered the wet surfaces like he was on water skis, zipping effortlessly through the rain over the line to complete the job he had arrived in the country to do.
“I need a gold. That’s very important to me,” he had stated after the qualifiers. He and his countrymen completed that task with relative ease, with Jason Livermore getting them off to a flying start and Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade doing all that was asked of them by getting the baton safely round to their star man.
He said he had come to Scotland with and open mind and that he hadn’t been disappointed. The people had been great with him, he said, and he had fun.
Bolt revelled in the occasion.
He photo-bombed the Jamaican women’s 4x100m winners, only halting the larking about long enough to applaud them onto the podium and watch as the Jamaican flag was raised.
Their race had been another display of the nation’s dominance in the sprints.
With Kerron Stewart, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Schillonie Calvert and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce setting a pace no one else could live with. Nigeria took silver, England bronze.