Jacques Rogge really got me mad this morning. I’ve been listening to peoples’ comments about Usain Bolt’s exuberant celebration of his mastery after his record-breaking 100m and 200m runs at Beijing, and most of the negative feedback has come from commentators whom people could choose to take on or ignore. But when the IOC chief puts his mouth in it, that’s another matter. Rogge thinks the Jamaican sensation was not gracious enough and should have shaken hands with his rivals after the race, and on the whole been more gentlemanly. The chest-thumping, dancehall-stepping, lightening-bolting antics that thrilled millions of people were just not good enough a performance for the Olympic boss:
‘I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters.’
Please. This is not only deluded and out of touch, as Rick Broadbent so rightly wrote in The Times today, but also plain racist. Why shouldn’t Bolt let loose and show his joy at this great performance? He hugged the other winners after giving the crowd and the cameras a great show (and after they caught up with him) but why should he stifle himself for Rogge and others’ benefit? Before Tiger Woods, golfers wore plaid Bermuda shorts and would never have dreamed of punching the air with their fists. Muhammed Ali was too lippy and radical and disrespectful. These men are giants, and so is Bolt. He’s a home-grown hero and everything about him is Jamaican and Caribbean. No ordinary man, no slave child. And don’t try to turn him into one—no “Thank you Massa” for Bolt. Caribbean children of my generation were taught that we should be ‘seen and not heard’, but this new generation, living under conditions of great stress in our little islands, has a different stride, and I admire their attitude and style—men and women. And when Usain Bolt puts his face up in the camera and tells the whole world, “I am Number One”, he’s damn right!
Happy Birthday to You, kid. You’ve made the Beijing Olympics our own.