Fans gather for London 2012 Olympics to see Lightning Bolt strike twice... twice
Jamaican flags outnumber Union Jacks as sprinter becomes first to win Olympic 'double double'
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 10 August 2012
Even in the heaving den of partisan British support that is the Olympic Stadium, the gold, green and black flags last night outnumbered Union Jacks. This was Jamaica's night and the devotees of the two fastest men in the world had come to show it.
Jorell Blake, 34, might have shared his surname with Usain Bolt's training partner and principal rival, Yohan Blake, but like almost everyone packed into the arena for last night's 200m final, he had come to see only one individual.
Adopting the lightning pose that spread across the Olympic Park last night like a Mexican wave, Blake, originally from Kingston and now living in London, said: "Bolt is the man. He's the guy who everyone in the world wants a bit of. I am seriously excited to be here."
Four days after Bolt, 25, who celebrates his birthday in 11 days, stormed to victory in the 100m, there was high anticipation among those lucky enough to be pouring into the stadium last night that the liquid ease of the gold medal winner on the track would produce another extraordinary display.
When he scored his first Olympic double in Beijing in 2008, Bolt took the 200m event in an Olympic record of 19.30 seconds and was widely expected to make a serious attempt on his 2009 world record of 19.19 seconds. It is, after all, what he describes as his favourite event.
Hannah James, 62, wrapped in the telltale flag of die-hard Bolt fans said: "I spare a thought for Yohan, he's good and would beat everyone else apart from his friend. But Usain is in a class of his own right now. He looks like he's not trying that hard when everyone else is pumping hard."
Among those keenly watching last night was someone with close experience of Bolt's talents, having presented him on Monday night with his prize from the 100m.
Alex Donaldson, 22, a Olympic volunteer chosen as a medal bearer, said: "It was incredible to give Bolt his gold medal. He's a brilliant character with loads of charisma. He was so kind and friendly to all the volunteers."
"I feel so honoured to have given him the medal; it was an unrivalled experience to stand in front of a stadium of 80,000 screaming fans and give him the medal."
On the hill overlooking the giant TV screens where day pass holders can watch events unfold circles of tell-tale green and gold had popped up among the Union Jacks. Jeff McCormack, Monica Lallo and Le Van Tay had all flown in from Manchester, a central province of Jamaica just to the south of Bolt's birthplace, to see the action.
"We just wanted to be in London to see it happen," said Mr McCormack. "We had to be here." So why did they think Jamaica is currently so dominant in sprinting?
" It's homegrown talent," said Miss Van Tay, a budding recording artist who divides her time between Jamaica and the States. "Every one of our gold medallists over the past two Olympics have been trained in Jamaica. They didn't go to an American college, they stayed home and focused on their game. What people don;t know about Jamaica is we have the best coaches in the world. We don't have the best equipment or the best money, but we've got the hunger and the drive."
"And we've got the love," added Miss Lallo. "The love of our sport, the love of our people and the love of being champions."
To Stephen and Lorraine Grant, whose parents moved from Jamaica and settled in Bedford, Ussain Bolt is the man who has given Jamaica an international platform.
"He's made athletics more popular, not just for Jamaica, for everyone," said Lorraine, an administrator at the Highways Agency. "Today's our first day in the Olympic park and we've had so many people respecting Jamiaca. People from all different backgrounds and cultures. That means a lot to us. We're really gobsmacked by it. To see the whole world following him and supporting him is a really big thing."
Such was duopoly excercised on the 200m by Bolt and Blake in the minds of spectators that most laughed when asked if anyone beyond them could win last night. As Jeremiah Adams, 78, wearing a gold Jamaica top, put it: "Jamaica is Bolt. Bolt is Jamaica. I'm telling you, if he stood for lifetime president right now, they'd elect him twice."
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