Guy Keleny: How could he be a legend? His existence is not in doubt

Pedant's View: Legendary figures are the likes of Arthur and Achilles, who may or may not have lived

It's a great day for pedantry. The fastest man on the planet and the top official of the Olympic movement are bickering over the precise connotations of two notoriously vague words.

Usain Bolt says he is a legend. Jacques Rogge disputes "legend" but allows that the sprinter is an icon. So, can you say definitively who is and who is not a legend? Probably not.

"Legend" is a word of Latin derivation, meaning something to be read. In the Middle Ages it meant accounts of the lives of saints. Today it means an account of events once believed to be true but now thought of as just a story.

Legend lies somewhere between history and fiction. Legendary figures are the likes of Arthur and Achilles, who may or may not have lived in reality. So by a strict definition no living person can be a legend. But "legend" has a more vague application, meaning an outstandingly famous person – which Bolt undoubtedly is.

All the same, Mr Rogge perhaps has the best of the argument. One thing you can say about legendary figures is that they are to be found in the past – the farther back in the mists of time the better.

So there is force in Mr Rogge's argument that Bolt cannot be judged a legend until his career is over. Meanwhile, according to Rogge, he is just an icon – that is to say, an image revered by the faithful. Yes, that you can't deny.

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