Commonwealth Games 2014: It’s love at first sight as Usain Bolt enters the fray

 

Hampden Park

They love a pantomime in Glasgow. This Christmas it’s the Krankies and John Barrowman in Cinderella at the SECC but Christmas has come early for the city this past few weeks and they have had a panto to  go with it.

Did Usain Bolt say this was all a bit s***? Oh, no he didn’t, he insisted again on Friday night. Oh, yes he did, insist the reporter and her newspaper. Whatever he said it has taken nothing from Glasgow’s Games and on Friday night, finally, he became a real, live part of Glasgow’s Games. Oh,  yes he did.

This was a cracking night inside Hampden Park, a fizzing, bubbling cacophony filling the scrubbed-up home of Scottish football. The place was bouncing before Bolt had even made it into the building and the biggest cheer came when Lynsey Sharp all but threw herself over the line to win a stunning, Scottish heart-warming silver in the 800m at B-day minus one hour.

Sharp’s deserved to be the story of the night. She had been in hospital until the small hours and came out to run the race of her life. This would not make the top 10 of Bolt’s best moments.

 

He was never going to get booed. He knew that, we knew that. From before he even set foot on the track, the announcement of his name was greeted with a roar. When he appeared, at first hidden beneath a black hoodie there were more. This was love at first sight, as it always is with Usain Bolt wherever he goes. Whatever he says.

The queues were snaking down Prospecthill Road beneath Hampden by  mid-afternoon, more than six hours before he was due to run. That though was not for Bolt, at least not just for Bolt. It has been like that for each of the six nights here, and besides this was supposed to be the night Mo Farah completed his treble double. All in all a plum night to get a ticket way back when two of the world’s most recognisable, and best, athletes were due in Glasgow for let’s call it fan-dabi-dozi Friday.

Nobody has been prepared to have a go at Bolt – the organisers for obvious reasons but everyone else because he is Bolt, the sporting superstar, the fastest man the world has ever seen. It is the greatest title in the sporting world. There was, though, a gentle reminder that no man is bigger than this Games as a whole – the 40,000 inside Hampden would have turned up whether Bolt was here  or not.

“It’s not the Usain Bolt show, it’s the Glasgow show; it’s Glasgow 2014 not Usain Bolt 2014,” was the succinct summary of Mark Day, a hammer thrower from the Highlands.

The man himself was in situ not long before six – Jason Smyth, the Irish sprinter, helpfully tweeted a picture of Bolt on the warm-up track – which must have come as a relief for the organisers no matter how much they insisted he would be here. At least now they could be sure he was going to run, a fact confirmed a little after 8pm on a still, sun-soaked and, probably to the surprise and relief of the Jamaicans, warm evening. In heat two, lane two, running fourth of four, No 1650 BOLT Usain.

It was a perfect night for running. The temperature dropped as the sun slipped away behind the stands and the events ticked by, an edge-of-the-seat finish to the Mo-less 10,000m, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro stealing past Josphat Kipkoech Bett on the line with the Kenyan already beginning to celebrate, followed by Sharp’s moment.

It was all accompanied by the drip feed of social media. Usain St Leo Bolt was providing the world with a countdown. “Almost time,” he tweeted and followed it 10 minutes later with a picture of the team in a huddle and the slogan “#letsdothis.”

And he did it. First he interrupted his warm-up to conduct the crowd in a pumped-out rendition of the “Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, and then, at long last, he ran in Glasgow. He crouched as Nickel Ashmeade approached, took the baton and seconds later it was all over. He was smiling and Hampden Park was smiling back at him.

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