Saturday, June 10, 2017 10:07 am
Usain Bolt’s value to Jamaica over the last decade has gone far beyond just winning medals on the track.
The island’s leading athletes and politicians said this as the sprint king prepares for his final race on home soil this week.
The 30-year-old multiple Olympic gold medallist, who has decided to retire after the world championships in London in August, will bid farewell to the fans in his island home in the 100 metres at Saturday’s Racers Grand Prix.
For Jamaicans he ranks as a national treasure, transcending his sport just as Brazilian Pele did in soccer and Muhammad Ali in boxing.
“Usain Bolt continues in that great tradition of voices that amplify Jamaica,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Reuters in an interview at the Kingston National Stadium on Wednesday.
“Great personalities like Usain Bolt … make people want to see what else Jamaica has to offer, so he literally opens doors for Jamaica to the rest of the world.”
Before Bolt, Don Quarrie was one of Jamaica’s best-known track and field athletes after he won gold in the 200 metres at the 1976 Olympics.
Quarrie said Bolt’s impact was as much about his spirit as about his sporting feats.
“He brought so much joy to track and field, not just from his times, but from his personality, which at first people thought was a put-on, but they later realised that it was genuine and they loved it,” Quarrie told Reuters.