21 August 2008

Bolt from the blue

It's official: Usain Bolt has upstaged the Michael Phelps Show.

Bolt completed an unprecedented double on Wednesday, winning the 200-meter race in world-record time. By duplicating his feat in the 100-meter dash, he becomes the first sprinter in history to set world records in both races in the same Olympics. And, unlike swimming, track and field records still mean something. Bolt had declared himself unconcerned with setting records after being criticized in some quarters for coasting home in the 100 m final, but in the 200 he seemed determined to answer the skeptics; running hard through the tape despite once again crushing the field.

There may be no holding back Bolt, who is just today turning 22 years old, from lowering his own records even more in the future. Some commentators, including Michael Johnson himself, believe Bolt could also win the 400 m if he were to enter. Could Bolt attempt an impossible treble in London? It's very unlikely, but that would be something to see.


Bolt's run Wednesday proved once again--as if any more proof were required--the idiocy of NBC's time-warp philosophy of Olympics broadcasting. How could anyone be expected to avoid the lead story on every sports website and television show, and most news programs as well, for the twelve hours that passed between the event occurring and NBC's actual broadcast? The network successfully prodded organizers to have swimming and gymnastics finals in the morning Beijing time so they could be broadcast in the American evening, but the absence of a verifiable American track star perhaps left them lulled into thinking there would be no major stories from the track.


I do have to give NBC some credit for its mostly appropriate coverage of Bolt, which has been forthright about his accomplishment without devolving into a 24-7 hype-fest. That's entirely coincidental with Bolt not being an American, of course, and you can certainly argue that he deserves Phelpsian-level accolades. But I'm not going to complain if NBC finally gets something right, however accidentally.