He will never be The Greatest. That accolade can be accorded to only one man: Muhammad Ali – and surely even Usain Bolt, would not argue with that. But who, now that he has become the first person to successfully defend back-to-back Olympic 100m and 200m titles, would challenge the sprinter's assertion that he is "a legend"?
The answer is the President of the International Olympic Committee. Following Bolt's magisterial victory on Thursday night, Jacques Rogge has hit out at the Jamaican's crowd-pleasing self-aggrandisement. "The career of Usain Bolt has to be judged when the career stops," said Rogge, citing the success of US runner Carl Lewis.
President Rogge, who sailed for Belgium in three Olympics has form for dissing Bolt. After the sprinter's double victory in Beijing Mr Rogge criticised Bolt's showboating claiming it demonstrated a lack of respect for the other competitors. "Let Usain Bolt be free of injury," Mr Rogge said. "Let him keep his motivation which I think will be the case... Let him participate in three, four games, and he can be a legend. Already he's an icon."
The IOC chief suggested Bolt needed to emulate Team GB's Ben Ainslie, whom he described as the "greatest sailor of all time" after his fourth successive gold at Weymouth, or Sir Steve Redgrave, winner of five. "You have to be there, you have to be at the top for almost 20 years which is a great achievement," said Mr Rogge.
American decathlon gold medallist Ashton Eaton also grumbled about Bolt hogging the limelight, saying: "I don't know what I have to do to get a profile like Bolt. Maybe a cool new pose."
Bolt, 25, spoke of running until he is 30 – but also of the threat from a new generation of runners, two of whom joined him on the podium, the fellow Jamaicans Yohan "the beast" Blake and Warren Weir.
But his appetite for the big occasion was clearly undiminished. Before lining up on the starting blocks he joked and chatted with the volunteer lane assistant, seeing her dissolve into laughter. "I said to her 'You nervous? Why?' and she was like 'I'm just so excited!' So that was pretty funny."
When he realised he was about to win the 200m but would not break his own record he broke the line with his fingers to his lips – seemingly a signal to his critics to be quiet. His celebrations went on and on – a display of the showmanship that continues to help draw millions of fans to athletics.
After crossing the line Bolt performed press-ups before a rapturous photography pack, before setting off on extended laps of the stadium, high-fiving many delighted spectators in the front row in the 80,000-strong crowd. At one point he even picked up a photographer's camera to take pictures of silver medallist Blake. The photographer was a Swedish snapper who had been pestering him to take a picture all week. The Swede had "been stressing me for the last three days," said Bolt. "He's always like 'Usain, Usain, take a picture, take a picture'." He was happy to oblige by turning the tables.
It then took the sprinter nearly two hours to navigate the round of post-TV interviews, and he eventually announced himself to the press contingent by calling for a drum roll.
Those hacks who waited until the early hours were not disappointed – in lively exchanges Bolt held forth on subjects from the Manchester United team and his own search for love to his desire to challenge Kenya's 800m world record holder David Rudisha in a 400m run-off.
Celebration: Snap happy Bolt leaves pressman picture to cherish
One photographer left the Olympic Stadium with a unique souvenir on Thursday night. After cruising to gold in the 200 metres final – and becoming the first man ever to win consecutive Olympic golds in both that event and the 100 metres in the process – Usain Bolt embarked on his customary celebrations. In addition, he grabbed a camera from one of the press snappers and proceeded to shoot a picture of Yohan Blake, his teammate and silver medallist across both distances at London 2012.
- More about:
- International Olympic Committee - IOC