Bolt’s visit could be key to Glasgow Games
COMPETING in just one event, Usain Bolt is likely to race in Glasgow for less than 20 seconds. Just convincing the sprint star to come to the Commonwealth Games, though, should go a long way to elevating the status of a sporting spectacle that might seem anachronistic.
Two years after the exuberance of the London Olympics, where Bolt left with three gold medals, Britain is welcoming the world back this week — or former members of the British Empire at least — for Scotland's largest-ever multi-sports event.
Across 11 days, 4,500 athletes will be competing in 17 events as the 20th Commonwealth Games is broadcast for the first time to television audiences in all 71 competing nations and territories. How full the venues will be on those screens remains unclear, with the insatiable appetite for Olympic tickets in London not appearing to have been matched north of the border.
The ticket website shows "high availability" still for many events, including Wednesday's opening ceremony, headlined by rock star Rod Stewart at the home of his beloved football club Celtic, and Susan Boyle, the church volunteer whose soaring voice turned her into an overnight reality TV star.
Even track and field events, which start Sunday at the Hampden Park national football stadium, have tickets still on sale for all but two of the 10 sessions. Not though on August 1 and August 2 when Bolt will appear for the first time.
Unlike in London when he swept the 100, 200 and 4x100-metre relay titles, the Jamaican is restricting himself to the relay in Glasgow, with just a heat and inevitable final. Organisers should be relieved Bolt is participating at all, given his lack of action this season due to a foot injury.
"I have received lots of requests, invitations and messages of support from my fans in Scotland who are looking forward to a great event," said Bolt, who skipped the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Like Bolt, a recent foot injury prevented compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the double 100-metre Olympic champion, from participating in the Jamaican trials, so her involvement in Glasgow will also be restricted to the relay. Although the enduring relevance of the Commonwealth is often questioned in the 21st century, Fraser-Pryce's affection for the organisation's sports festival is clear.
"It ranks high because I've never been to a Commonwealth Games before," Fraser-Pryce told The Associated Press. "I've always thought (after) winning an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and a world indoor gold medal that if I had a Commonwealth gold medal that would top things off.
"I don't think it's outdated (the Commonwealth Games), I just think that a lot of persons who believe that we are the world powers who aren't here. So they believe that it's not a big thing, but ... we are part of the Commonwealth and we see it as something big."
Organisers will be hoping to recapture the high spirits of London 2012, with an array of British Olympic medallists splitting off to compete under the home nations' flags. Perhaps offsetting Bolt's truncated participation, English favourite Mo Farah declared himself fit to try to add to his 5,000 and 10,000 Olympic titles and shake off the frustrations from his lacklustre full London Marathon debut in April.
Away from the temporary Hampden Park track, Bradley Wiggins will also have a point to prove in the newly-built velodrome and on the roads of Glasgow after the 2012 Tour de France champion was omitted from the Team Sky squad for this year's race.
The Tollcross swimming pool should be the scene of some of the most fiercely, competitive action, with the sold-out 100-metre breaststroke final pitting Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa against Australia's world champion Christian Sprenger.