12 August 2016

With Zika diminished, stage set for Bolt, athletics show


Before August, it had appeared like the headline of the Olympics would be the Zika virus.

Months on end, it overshadowed preparations for the Olympics and cast doubt on the legacy of the XXXI Olympiad.

The first week of the Games, which has mostly been centered in Barra, has seen the virus phased out of the news because the Games have rightfully taken centre stage.

We witnessed swimmer Michael Phelps rewrite the history books as the greatest Olympian ever, tennis world number ones Novak Djokovic and Serene Williams eliminated and Ugandans Jamila Lunkuse and Kennedy Katende vanquished at the first hurdle in swimming and boxing respectively.

The sport we yearned for years gave us its fair share of drama in week one. There was Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte, who swam slower than Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani, the legendary Equatorial Guinean of Sydney 2000.

For some, the Olympics are nothing before Track and Field.
It is precisely why tomorrow, when the focus moves to Maracana Athletics stadium, it will feel like the start of the Games for the traditionalists.

Athletics owns the blue ribbon event of any Olympics – the 100m final.

It is the event that made Carl Lewis a legend, Linford Christie a superstar and Donovan Bailey an icon of his time.
Yet none of the aforementioned names, you suspect, comes anywhere close to Usain Bolt. Lewis perhaps, but not quite.

Bolt has transcended athletics and Olympics to a level not matched in history.

The world’s highest paid runner is also the most popular, most decorated and most adored.

He has already declared that Rio will be his last Olympics and every step and stunt of his will be a collector’s item, he is that good.
“I flew from Nicaragua to watch Usain,” said Angel Manuz, a septuagenarian. “This is my chance to be part of history.”

Manuz says it is his first and probably last Olympics and is hoping Bolt wins all three medals.

But there is more than Bolt to look out for.
Uganda has 17 members for the track with Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich leading the medal charge.

Solomon Mutai’s bronze medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing means Uganda’s medal hopes will be rested in more than Kiprotich.


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