SBD/August 10, 2012/Olympics

Bolt's Popularity Reaches Highs And Lows Following 200-Meter Victory

Bolt declared himself a legend after winning Gold in both the 100 and 200-meter races
Gold Medal-winning Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt declared himself a “legend” after he completed an unprecedented sprint sweep, becoming the first athlete to win the 100 and 200 meters at consecutive Olympics. Bolt: “I'm a legend now." But IOC President Jacques Rogge thinks that may be premature, saying, "Let Usain Bolt be free of injury. 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” (Mult., 8/9). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde wrote Bolt's “run as the most popular foreign athlete in the United States -- maybe ever, or at least in the argument -- might have ended abruptly Thursday night” after he criticized former nine-time U.S. Gold Medal-winner Carl Lewis. Following his victory in the 200 meters, Bolt said, “Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him. The things he says about the track athletes are very downgrading.” When asked what caused him to lose respect for Lewis, Bolt said, “All drug stuff.” Forde wrote until that point, Bolt had “achieved something even more remarkable than turning the Olympic Stadium track into his own personal drag strip.” Bolt “managed to be the most toweringly arrogant, endlessly cocky, thoroughly likeable guy in sports.” Until going after Lewis, Bolt had “shown the world that it's possible to be the world's fastest man, have the world's biggest ego and still be the world's most enjoyable athlete.” Forde: “There went the American vote, Usain. Hope the endorsement deals in Jamaica and Europe stay strong” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/9). SI.com’s Tim Layden wrote Bolt’s “celebration turned ugly,” giving an “unseemly end to a historic night” (SI.com, 8/9). FOXSPORTS.com’s Greg Couch wrote, “Bolt’s little outburst against Lewis won’t do any damage to Bolt’s lovable image. No one really liked Lewis anyway.” But it is “hard to know whether we can believe in super-greatness anymore, especially in track and field, where doping has all but ruined the sport’s image” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/9).

I AM LEGEND: In N.Y., Christopher Clarey writes track and field should “consider kissing him back, because he has given the sport the global figure that it sorely needed in 2008 in a Darwinian entertainment landscape.” Bolt said, “After this Olympics, I’m a legend now. I don’t know what I really want to do, if I’m still going to run the 100 or 200 or try something else” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10). ESPN.com's Jim Caple wrote, “Like Muhammad Ali did, Bolt craves and swallows the spotlight. He is so entertaining, so cocky and so funny, it's as if no one else is on the track.” Bolt said, “If I don't see this on the TV or in the papers, I won't do any more interviews. I want to tell my friends to follow me on Twitter @usainbolt.com” (ESPN.com, 8/9). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley writes, "Normally, we scoff at athletes who choose showboating over humility and maximum effort. But not Bolt. He is so entertaining and likeable, such displays only add to his charm" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/10). In Miami, Linda Robertson wrote, “Showman, yes. Prima donna, no.” Bolt’s agent Ricky Sims said, “Whether he is in front of one person or 60,000, he is the same. He really, genuinely is.” Robertson adds Bolt’s upbringing “imbued him with empathy -- his ability to connect with people” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/10). Twitter indicated that Bolt “set a new Olympics Games conversation mark with more than 80,000 tweets per minute during his history-making run.” FOXSPORTS.com’s Todd Behrendt notes the combination of Bolt’s “popularity and his unprecedented on-track accomplishments make him natural fodder for social media” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/10).

MORE DESERVING OF ATTENTION?
In Newark, Steve Politi notes thousands of people "lined up for 16 hours to get inside the Olympic Stadium, and judging by the empty seats after the Jamaicans swept the medals in the 200, they weren’t waiting for Ashton Eaton to hold off fellow American Trey Hardee for decathlon gold.” Politi: “They wanted to see Bolt. So did NBC, which has essentially granted him American citizenship during its broadcasts.” Eaton is "one of the best decathletes ever,” but he also has the “distinction of being born at the wrong time, competing in the wrong sport, and doing it in the wrong era” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8,10). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes Bolt is “practically the only thing anybody cares about anymore in track, and that’s a shame, no matter how gloriously he glitters.” Eaton’s skills “embody the stated aims of these Olympics -- faster, higher, stronger.” Bondy: “Much of this was lost on the fans at the Olympic Stadium, and likely on the viewers back home. Americans have become spoiled rotten again at these Olympics.” After Bolt’s performance, Eaton’s accomplishments “were eclipsed, nothing new for a modern decathlete.” What Eaton accomplished is “worth celebrating, admiring, putting on the front of another iconic Wheaties box” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/10). In L.A., Philip Hersh writes under the header, “Usain Bolt, Ashton Eaton Provide Separate Scales For Greatness” (L.A. TIMES, 8/10).
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