Usain Bolt hogs Glasgow spotlight on Commonwealth debut
Glasgow: Sprint superstar Usain Bolt made his long-anticipated track appearance at the Commonwealth Games on Friday, sending a raucous crowd into a frenzy as he anchored his Jamaican sprint team to victory in a relay heat.
Bolt, arguably the biggest name in world sport, ran the fourth leg of 4x100m relay, the Caribbean island`s quartet winning the heat in 38.98 seconds to advance to the final scheduled for 2015 GMT on Saturday.
Roars from the capacity crowd packed into Hampden Park went up when the stadium announcer named Bolt in previewing events to come. Camera flashes and a new buzz lit up the stadium as the Jamaican entered the arena and paced out his start in lane two.
The man himself was coolness personified, clapping the crowd to more cheers as he finalised his warm-up, dressed in a singlet and tight mid-thigh shorts in his national colours of yellow, green and black.
Inevitably the camera images of the towering Jamaican, measuring 1.96m (6`5"), were shown on the two big screens of Hampden Park, to more cheers.
Kimmari Roach, Julian Forte and 100m bronze medallist Nickel Ashmeade got the baton around safely to Bolt, who coasted home, nodding to the following camera and applauding the appreciative crowd.
Bolt`s early season was ruined by a nagging foot injury and his track comeback was twice delayed as he sought to hit peak fitness, his last competitive race dating back to the Diamond League season-ender in Brussels last September.
It also meant he missed the Jamaican national championships, which doubled as the Caribbean island`s trials for Glasgow.
Not amongst the trios selected for the 100 and 200m, Bolt made himself available for the 4x100m relay team and was duly selected.
In his absence in the individual events, in which Bolt is defending double Olympic champion and world record holder, Jamaica showcased their strength in depth, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Rasheed Dwyer claiming the respective golds.
Billboards featuring Bolt are dotted throughout Scotland`s largest city. In the colours of one the Games` main sponsors, Bolt is shown with the caption "Happy to be charging the Games."
He can hardly be explained as having done that, what with his absence from the track, but Bolt is never far from the public`s eye.
The 27-year-old was forced into an angry denial this week that he had dubbed the Games "a bit shit", history`s fastest man accusing The Times newspaper of "creating lies to make headlines" after it reported he rubbished the 2014 Games while waiting for a car outside the athletes` village.
He has since appeared watching the Jamaican netball team, was pictured with Prince William, his wife Catherine and his brother Prince Harry, and promptly told reporters that the Games were actually "awesome".
Bolt`s presence was always in doubt in the run-up to the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland.
Organisers were left reeling from the withdrawal of top stars including Bolt`s teammate Yohan Blake, double Olympic champion runner Mo Farah, cyclist Mark Cavendish and London 2012 heptathlon heroine Jessica Ennis-Hill, but Bolt pulled through, albeit in just one event, to offer a real boost.
Amazingly Bolt`s outing at Hampden Park was his first Commonwealth appearance after he missed Melbourne in 2006 through injury, while the Delhi 2010 Games fell too late in the season for him.
A Commonwealth medal is certainly a glaring absentee from the trophy cupboard of a sprinter who has won six Olympic gold medals and eight world titles.
He swept Olympic gold in the 100, 200 and 4x100m relay at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, took the same three world crowns at 2009 in Berlin and last year in Moscow, and won 200m and relay crowns at Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.
Bolt also set the 100m world record of 9.58sec and the 200m record of 19.19 at the 2009 worlds in Berlin.