Yesterday my fiancee and I went to the amazing Anniversary Games in the Olympic Stadium. It was great to be back and there was lots of athletes it was exciting to see. Robbie Grabarz in the high jump. Perri Shakes-Drayton in the hurdles. Kirani James in the 400m. But there was really only one man I was waiting for: Usain Bolt, the fastest human who has ever lived.
When he came out onto the track, the atmosphere completely changed. The camera flashes round the stadium could have lit up a small town. He played to the crowd, joking around and striking poses. Even as he settled on the start line the crowd was shouting out his name (sorry, Dwain Chambers).
I knew that seeing Usain Bolt run was going to be one of the sporting experiences of my life. For a start, how often do you truly get to see someone who is the best at something, in any walk of life? In sport, if you watch Lionel Messi, you get to see a man who many feel is the greatest footballer of all time. But there are others who would press that claim for Pele (including me), or for Maradona. In almost every other field it is hard to distinguish who is the best. Who is the greatest scientist who has existed? Or the greatest painter, or singer? But with Bolt, you know he is the best.
Watching him run was something otherworldly. We had already seen people run very fast that evening, including the brilliant Adam Gemili winning the other 100m, an all British affair. But watching Bolt run was something qualitatively different. He actually got off to an awful start (not his forte anyway) and was some distance behind the leader. But once his huge legs really got moving, everyone in the stadium, including probably his competitors, knew it was over. The only thing I’ve seen I can compare it to is when an express train isn’t stopping at a station and the people on the platform feel it rush past them. The way Bolt went past them wasn’t really like watching a person. It was like watching an F1 car, or a fighter jet. It was like watching storm clouds roil over a landscape, or trying to catch the wind.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Showman Bolt was back, taking in the applause, milking the crowd, making us all feel grateful for being there. There are so many uncertainties in life, few moments of clarity and utter precision in our imperfect world. Last night I saw one and he comes from Jamaica.