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SBD Global/July 23, 2012/Olympics

Bolt's Popularity Unquestioned, His Impact On Track & Field 'Difficult To Measure'

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been called the economic engine of his sport.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt “remains track’s most thrilling performer and its economic engine,” according to Tim Layden of SI. U.S. shot putter Adam Nelson said, “Without Bolt, I suppose we have no sport.” Layden writes the 100m and 200m races at the London Games “will be characterized as having been won or lost by Bolt,” as he is the “barometer by which the sport is measured.” NBC’s Ato Boldon said, “Now he is Ali. The Ali who lost to Frazier and then beat Foreman. He’s going to lose every now and then, but then he’s going to be even bigger because of those losses.” The cost to sign Bolt to run a one-day meet “has been reported at $250,000,” but despite this “astronomic fee, meets clamor for his participation.” Golden Spike Invitational Meet Manager Alfons Juck said, “When you have Usain Bolt, you have a sellout, you have happy sponsors, you have happy TV.” He added, “No other name attracts interest like him. None of the other great athletes of the past -- Carl Lewis, Sergey Bubka -- have been like Bolt.” Weltklasse Meet Dir Patrick Magyar said, “He doesn’t make a meet good or bad, he makes it glamorous.” Layden writes the other athletes “know it,” and whether it “helps the sport in general, or just Usain Bolt, is difficult to measure.” Athletes “need sponsorship money to survive.” It is possible that Bolt is “so economically dominant,” that others are “left to fight for his table scraps.” It is also possible that Bolt’s “presence alone is what makes the sport viable and allows others to secure endorsement deals.” From his “fellow athletes, there is little resentment and, moreover, genuine affection” (SI, 7/23 issue).

CASHING IN? RUNNERS WORLD U.K.’s Kerry McCarthy wrote Bolt’s “jaw-dropping performances have turned him into one of the most bankable sporting stars of our age.” In response to the suggestion that, in “plastering himself all over European TV screens this spring with endorsements for Visa, Virgin Media and the Jamaica Tourist Board, he will be seen by some as having ‘cashed in’ and lost some of his credibility, Bolt simply shrugs.” Bolt said, “If people want to think that of me, this is fine. But I never try to be cool, I just try to be me. And in all the ads I did I was still being me. Clowning around, having fun. Plus, I’m just doing my job. Athletes earn most of their money through endorsements and that’s just the way it is. The sponsors pay us, we do what they want” (, 7/11).
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