In a converted old brewery, Usain Bolt rocked up in London and got the World Championships party started on Tuesday night. By the time he turned in, after an hour of poses, promises and a veiled put-down for Andre De Grasse, there was no escaping the sense that the music really is about to stop.
It is close now, just three more days until Saturday’s 100metres final and a further seven until the relay that will end the greatest athletics career of all. A maximum of five races in all, gone in 50 seconds, probably less.
Blink and you’ll miss it, just as athletics will desperately miss him when this long farewell tour is done, for in plain truth his absurd talents and charisma have saved his sport.
Usain Bolt appeared at a press conference ahead of his final World Athletics Championships
Bolt spoke about the loss of his close friend, the former British high jumper Germaine Mason
Bolt spoke on some serious matters in London and also shared a hug with his father, Wellesley
Take last night, as an example. His final press conference at a central London events centre drew somewhere in the region of 500 media, so many that the original plan to stage it in a room at the Emirates had to be abandoned. The sheer circus of it all was summed up by PA announcements that ‘the show is about to begin’ ahead of his arrival on stage.
The intriguing question, quite aside from what athletics will do next, is what kind of finale Bolt can deliver to that show. There is nothing new in the narrative of Bolt turning up at a major championships in dodgy form and then winning all the marbles, but ageing is non-negotiable and this season has made the eight-time Olympic champion look more like a man who turns 31 this month.
Two of his three races were desperately underwhelming, his bad back necessitated a trip to see his doctor in Germany and the motorcycle death of Germaine Mason, the British high jumper, did untold damage to Bolt, who was partying with Mason and then travelling with him on the night he crashed. He was first on the scene and later helped dig the grave.
The 30-year-old was in an animated mood ahead while speaking to a crowd in east London
To hear Bolt discuss the tragedy is to understand how he could yet go north or south in his 100m battle royale with De Grasse, Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.
‘For me it was a rough time,’ Bolt said. ‘I have never had someone who passed away so close to me. It set me back a little bit and I didn’t train for three weeks maybe.
‘My coach gave me my space, he gave me my time to get over it. But at some point the close net of people I was with said, “Listen to us Usain, I know it is hard but you need to get back training because Germaine would have wanted it. He was looking forward to coming to your last race and seeing you compete and