Although only racing in the programme-ending 4x100m relay, the larger-than-life presence of Usain Bolt dominated track and field at the Commonwealth Games, hit by the absence of several other big names.
The Games had got off to the worst possible start when English double world and Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m champion Mo Farah pulled out on the opening morning.
Allied with the absence of Bolt’s teammate Yohan Blake and British medal hopes Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, there was a concern athletics might prove to be somewhat of a letdown, with doubts over Bolt’s participation raised even after he had touched down in Scotland.
Those fears were quickly dispelled, however, by a thrilling week of track and field in front of packed, raucous crowds at Hampden Park, normally home to the Scotland football team but transformed into a magnificent athletics arena.
In a fitting end to the track and field programme at Hampden Park, Jason Livermore, 100m gold medallist Kemar Bailey-Cole and bronze medallist Nickel Ashmeade all safely negotiated their legs before the baton was passed on to the towering figure of Bolt.
The 27-year-old, who has won six Olympic gold medals and eight world titles but was making his Commonwealth Games debut, made no mistake with his anchor run in light drizzle on a soaked track, charging through the line in a Games record of 37.58 seconds.
“The fans made the Games what they were,” said Bolt after anchoring the Jamaicans to gold in the relay. “They really came out and supported from day one.
“To see the fans come out and support the Games was just wonderful. The crowd was great; I thought I was in the London Olympics.
“It’s been a good championship, the crowd made it wonderful, they came out and supported and that’s always good for the athletes to come out and see a full stadium because that helps you to spur you on to really want to do good.”
East African giants Kenya topped the medals table with 23 in total, including 10 golds, 10 silvers and three bronzes.
Jamaica were second with 19 (10-3-6), followed by Australia (12; 8-1-3), England (27; 5-13-9) and Canada (17; 5-2-10).
Other stars who shined
Of the other star names to compete at Hampden, Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada won the men’s 400m but there was no such luck for 800m world record holder David Rudisha, who only managed a silver behind Botswana’s Nijel Amos.
There was a memorable double sprint title for Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, deprived however of a gold in the 4x100m relay by a Jamaican team numbering Veronica Campbell-Brown, Kerron Stewart and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the double Olympic 100m champion, like Bolt, also making her Commonwealth debut.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2014.