Organisers of the Commonwealth Games sought to limit the long-term damage to the competition’s international reputation tonight after the world’s most famous athlete Usain Bolt was reported to have delivered a crushing verdict on his experience there and describing the sporting jamboree as “a bit shit”.
Sprinter Usain Bolt is alleged to have made the disparaging remark and said that he preferred the Olympic Games as he left the athletes’ village in the drizzle on Tuesday after meeting Prince Harry.
But following the publication of the comments in The Times, including his claim that he was “not really” enjoying himself at the so-called Friendly Games – deemed by most observers to be a success despite its failure to attract some of the biggest-name athletes – he immediately hit back.
The world’s fastest man issued a rapid denial on Twitter telling his 3.4m followers: “I'm waking up to this nonsense..journalist please don't create lies to make headlines.”
As he watched fellow Team Jamaica stars the Sunshine Girls in the netball, he insisted he believed the Games were “awesome” posing for photographs, signing autographs and showing outward signs of having a good time – even joining in a Mexican wave.
Bolt is due to step onto the track on Friday to take part in the 4x100m heats - his only event of the Games and the first in which he has run this year.
He will be hoping he has done enough to convince the 40,000 spectators at Hampden that he is back on message and not to be on the receiving end of a hostile reception.
His manager Ricky Simms told the BBC that the report was “utter rubbish”. He said: “The atmosphere in and around the stadiums has been absolutely fantastic and I have absolutely no idea where these quotes have come from.”
Bolt’s team mate, fellow sprinter Jason Livermore, had earlier indicated that it could be more than the “tough” weather conditions that were upsetting the Jamaicans when he hinted at some discomfort in the village.
Times reporter Katie Gibbons said the newspaper would publish the “full conversation” and her editor Angus Macleod, said: “We stand by this story 100 per cent. We have utter confidence in this story.”
Among those to question the report however was the BBC TV anchor for the Games, Gary Lineker: “Have the Times got any evidence at all about supposed @usainbolt comment? Just wondered....” he tweeted. Dame Kelly Holmes said she hoped he had not made the remark. “These Games have been brilliant. The Olympics are a massive event but the Commonwealth Games is the only other multi-sport event that there is on this scale,” she said.
Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, sought to play down the row which was suddenly in danger of overshadowing the success of the Games and damaging the long term reputation of the event as an international sporting brand.
"We take Mr Bolt at his word. We're very pleased with how he's responded and that's our position,” he said.
Shona Robison, the Scottish Government cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth Games and sport, said she was prepared to give the six-time Olympic champion the benefit of the doubt.
"Usain Bolt has described the comments in the media today 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,” she said.
Bolt has yet to make an appearance at any Commonwealth Games.
Injury had put him in doubt for Glasgow 2014. Yet despite his limited involvement he has continued to be the centre of attention at the event. On Saturday he gave a packed media conference in which he was asked a barrage of questions.
Team Jamaica's press attaché, Laurel Smith, suggested that Bolt may have been frustrated at the level of curiosity he was receiving. “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,” he said.