It was a Saturday night that many Jamaicans will remember for a long time. Jamaica's superstar athlete, Usain Bolt, ran his last race in Jamaica on June 10, 2017, provoking screams of excitement, vuvuzela blasts and a party atmosphere among 30,000 supporters at Kingston's national stadium.
The occasion was the JN Racers Grand Prix, which featured a host of other Olympic athletes — including Bolt's former training partner Yohan Blake — who was in good form and declared he was there to fill the vacuum left by Bolt – who is retiring, and will run his final international race at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in London in August.
The sprint legend received red carpet treatment and a guard of honour. Government officials, diplomats and celebrities flocked to the stadium, and social media was awash with tributes, selfies and videos of the race, in which Bolt got off to a slightly nervous start but soon caught up. It was a treat for athletics fans:
— Rosheika Grant (@rosheikagrant) June 11, 2017
Video camera in hand, British track athlete and Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, himself a Bolt fan, was keen to record the athlete's sprint, much to Jamaicans’ amusement:
— Dionne JacksonMiller (@djmillerJA) June 11, 2017
The main event, which Bolt won quite easily, was the 100 meter sprint. Fans enthused:
— Cleo Walker (@KleoBell) June 11, 2017
Some were overcome with nostalgia:
— unknown (@Lacey_World) June 11, 2017
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Sports Minister Olivia Grange made the most of the wave of euphoria surrounding the event, having hosted International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe for the occasion:
— Hon.Olivia Grange (@Babsy_grange) June 10, 2017
Coe heaped praises on Bolt — whom he referred to as the GOAT (the Greatest Of All Time) — local journalist Abka Fitz-Henley reported:
— Abka Fitz-Henley (@AbkaFitzHenley) June 11, 2017
Sports writer Andre Lowe noted Bolt's contribution to the “business” of sport:
His ascension has brought and will continue to push more talented Jamaican youth to the sport. In Jamaica, where not enough is taken seriously enough, athletics is now seen as big business – Bolt's brilliance has led a boom where the local industry is concerned. We are still far behind as it relates to sports tourism , but again, Bolt has been a major contributor to the thrust – or trickle – of the Jamaican sports tourism product.
Commentator Brian-Paul Walsh reflected that Usain Bolt's career was a ray of light in an otherwise gloomy local landscape:
While sentimentally observing the culmination of a spectacular career, it would be remiss to not contextualise those spectacular performances with the other national records we would rather not highlight, such as the galloping crime rate and the plummeting dollar.
As social and economic conditions deteriorated, Bolt's development accelerated, thrusting him and this nation into global news for sprinting at a time when we were also gaining notoriety for scamming. On a night when hearts were aflutter in anticipation of one final 100-metre race inside the National Stadium, there were many households in mourning over tragic losses to their families from that week's murder madness. While dignitaries gathered inside the royal box to snap shots with the greatest of all time, their minions made mischief in communities just beyond the bright lights.
In the midst of excruciating circumstances and with very little around us to provide hope, we are fortunate to have lived in this time and to have one of us brilliantly defy the odds and rise into the fullness of himself.
Bolt's old school in rural Trelawny proudly paid tribute:
Amidst all the Bolt euphoria at the event, one world record was broken in the 200 meters by South African Wayde van Niekerk. The stellar lineup of athletes reflected the growing stature of Jamaican track, which Bolt has been largely responsible for, and the event was widely covered by international media:
“A sacred moment”.
Usain Bolt won his final 100m race in Jamaica on Sunday.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 12, 2017
A local professional photographer took this stunning shot:
For Crimson. pic.twitter.com/x2j4jDPoG9
— Cevan 📸 (@cevancoore) June 11, 2017
And the Gleaner's Ricardo Makyn captured this gem:
— Jamaica Gleaner (@JamaicaGleaner) June 11, 2017
Not everyone was impressed by local media coverage of the event, however. University lecturer Damien King thought some were “cashing in”:
Gleaner devotes its entire front page and page 2 to an ADVERTISEMENT presented as news. And for a product it itself is selling. Shameless. pic.twitter.com/TGVblKMFSm
— Damien King (@DamienWKing) June 10, 2017
Bolt confided that his close friend, fellow Jamaican athlete Germaine Mason, who died in a motorcycle accident in Kingston in April 2017, was weighing on his mind — but as the races ended, it was time to relax and celebrate, with Bolt displaying his well-known love of dancing:
— Television Jamaica (@televisionjam) June 11, 2017
Although most of the lights had been turned off, Bolt continued to party:
Bolt says don't turn off the sound….him will pay fi di light. He's having time of his life. #OneLastBolt
— Arhazivory (@Arhazivory) June 11, 2017
Fireworks closed the show:
— 💣💭 (@torpedo876) June 11, 2017
One media personality commented:
— Terri-Karelle Reid (@TerriKarelle) June 11, 2017
So what's next for the legendary Usain? He has not said much about his plans, although he will appear as a footballer in a video game:
Bolt's final professional race will take place at the IAAF World Championships in London this August, but his example will continue to inspire Jamaicans from all walks of life. Broadcast journalist Cliff Hughes shared:
The boy from Trelawny now the legend@usainbolt is a living example that we can be a great nation and people. Let's aim for greatness.
— Cliff Hughes (@cliffnationwide) June 11, 2017
Later that evening, the man himself tweeted, simply:
Thank you Jamaica🙌🏽🙌🏽
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) June 11, 2017