Give me one last shot of Bolt and Blake together
ATHLETICS:There may be no real cure for an Olympics hangover but the world’s two best sprinters going head-to-head will do, writes IAN O'RIORDAN
EVERYONE KNOWS the simple explanation for a hangover is the sudden and complete withdrawal of alcohol from the bloodstream, that swelling of the brain against the lining of the skull, and that sometimes the only way to handle it is to have one more drink – preferably of similar strength.
The same goes for the sudden and complete withdrawal from the Olympics: you don’t go 16 hours a day for 16 days straight without generating industrial amounts of pure adrenaline, and the truth is that becomes a daily fix as addictive and as lethal as pure ethanol. Try coming off that cold turkey, without shouting epithets at yourself, reviling the desperation, heaping treasures of coarse abusive language onto anyone within earshot.
So, just in the nick of time, the BBC’s beautiful little red button served up the Diamond League meeting from Lausanne on Thursday night, which went down as sweet as the finest Puerto Rican rum and coke. Even on the heels of the high drama and incredible excitement of London this didn’t disappoint, even if the two headline acts – Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake – were this time served up separately.
It’s been a while since athletics was in such a commanding position, keeping two of its biggest stars apart, and essentially getting away with it. If the London Olympics proved one thing it’s that athletics, once properly packaged and presented, still makes for spectacular entertainment, and no one, it seems, is more capable of that than the Jamaican sprinters – with the possible exception of Mo Farah, and of course David Rudisha.
Why then are they running away from each other, as opposed to against each other? It’s not as if they’ve anything to hide, at least we hope not, and especially not in the Lance Armstrong sense, who it now seems certain is the latest reminder that the truth will always come out in the end.
Not everything about the Jamaican sprint success adds up to a clean total, not when they’re so comfortably surpassing the times of sprinters we know weren’t clean, but that’s not saying there’s any strong reason not to believe.
Anyway, if Bolt and Blake are the biggest names in world athletics right now – and on the evidence of Lausanne they surely are – then who wouldn’t pay good money to watch them go head-to-head: Bolt’s 19.58 seconds for 200 metres on Thursday is only bettered by one other man this year, and that’s Blake; and Blake’s 9.69 seconds for 100 metres on Thursday is only bettered by one other man ever, and that’s Bolt. The fact that Bolt is the only man to have ever run quicker on both counts pretty much seals the deal.
The simple explanation here, it seems, is money, or rather the lack of it – in that none of the big meeting promoters can afford to have them both in the same race. Tomorrow, Birmingham stages another sold-out stop on the Diamond League tour, and yet neither Bolt nor Blake will be there.
Blake’s reasons, at least according to his agent Cubie Seegobin, are definitely financial, as Birmingham were only offering a $40,000 appearance fee, when these days Blake commands closer to $150,000 – still only about half of what Bolt earns each time he races. “Their attitude seems to be, ‘we’ve got Mo Farah, so we don’t need anyone else’, so there’s something wrong there,” said Seegobin, and maybe there is.