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Rojo's Tour of China 2008: Hanging Out With Usain Bolt
Update #1

by: Rojo
August 6, 2008

It didn't take long to realize that I was in the land of the Olympics and in China.

Getting off the plane, it was a bit weird to see a guy wearing a security uniform filming everyone with with a video camera as they deplaned. I'm not sure what that was about, but let's just say that I'll be sure to behave myself.

Beijing and Coca Cola 

Once in the airport, the place was full of Olympic advertisements. It was a bit disappointing to see the track ads using generic pictures of track athletes whereas Visa used a big photo of Michael Phelps. Plenty of teams were in the airport (Czech Republic, Cuba) along with plenty of friendly American faces, including Dick Patrick of USA Today and David Monti of the NYRR and Race Results Weekly.

Rojo Fortunate to See the Clouds
On the ride from the airport, our driver said that it was a very sunny day for Beijing. To me, it was hard to tell it was sunny as there was a big haze in the sky. I could see a few clouds but everything was a bit muted. Instead of the sky being a dark blue, it was a barely visible light blue due to the haze and the clouds were barely visible as they blended in with the haze.

Bolt Swarmed by the Media 

Usain Bolt Mania (Or Is It the Free Booze?)

The driver acted like the weather on my arrival was very good. He said it's very unusual to even be able to see clouds in Beijing (as normally the haze is so thick). He said the big test would be to see what happens in the next few days as it's very unusual to have more than two to three sunny days in a row.

Puma Party With Bolt
Once checked into the hotel, it was off the Jamaican/Puma party. Puma was throwing a party for its star athlete Usain Bolt and the whole Jamaican delegation over here (including the ambassador) showed up. When I showed up, Bolt was in the back room doing a series of press conferences - first with the European/Western media and then with the local/Asian media.

The Western media needs to wake up. Their media session was the typical one where they seemed so bored they could barely ask questions. Once they left, the local media had their own session and it was 100% different. They were clearly thrilled to be in the room with Bolt and treated him as a big time celebrity. They asked plenty of questions with lots of enthusiasm and then when it was all over they openly violated the big rule of American media: "no clapping in the press room." They went way farther than that. They asked for autographs, posed for pictures, etc. It was fantastic.

The highlight of the press conference had to be when the translator read a prepared question from the Korean media. The Koreans are apparently hosting Worlds in 2011. The question was something to the effect of, "The Korean national record in the 100 meters has stood for over 20 years (ed.: due to my jet lag I wasn't prepared and wasn't recording anything so I can't remember how old it is), what advice would you give to a Korean athlete?"

Rojo Explains the Dancing in the Photo Gallery

Bolt did an amazing job of saying something to the effect of, "Just keep working hard. Sometimes a small change will result in a much faster time." If it was me, I think I would have started laughing or said something like, "Find another event."

Rojo Asks Bolt About Moving Up to the 800
Then the media departed and I was allowed to hang out with Bolt and one other person. Not wanting to be a groupie, I have no proof of the private 15-minute hang-out session. But let's just say that Bolt is a cool 21-year-old guy. He is completely laid back and you get zero sense that he views himself as a big time celebrity. He asked me if Kevin Garnett was coming to the Olympics. He said KG was "big time." I laughed and said that the fastest man in the world was the biggest celeb in the Olympics.

Bolt revealed that the Jamaicans are trying to get him to consider running the 4 x 400 but that he didn't think he'd have the energy for it. LRC fans will be thrilled to know that I did try to plant the seed in Bolt that ultimately he needed to try being an 800 runner as every LetsRun.com message board poster had dreamed of such an idea for years whenever there is a new king in the 400.

I told Bolt that in four years after he was the Olympic champion of 100, 200, 400, 4 x 100 and 4 x 400, that he would need to at least try the 800 one time. He said, "Yeah right" and laughed it off. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Bolt Apologizes for Not Reading LetsRun.com
Other tidbits from hanging out with Bolt: When he was told that I was one of the guys behind LetsRun.com, he immediately apologized and said he didn't go to Athletics websites; mainly he goes to social networking sites. Apparently Facebook is even big in Jamaica!

Bolt Wants to Meet Kevin Garnett

Bolt seemed impressed by China. He and the Jamaicans are based a few hours from Bejing where they have their own track. Apparently the entire track is surrounded by police when they practice. So it's maybe 50 Jamaicans and then hundreds of police. Impressive. He came into Beijing on a bullet train which was so fast he didn't have time for a nap.

Bolt said his coach Glen Mills isn't letting him go to the opening ceremony. Bolt was a bit disappointed as he thought the Chinese would put on a hell of a fireworks how. "I want to see the fireworks. This is China, man."

Biggest surprise about China? Taxis are cheap. You can ride around for like 20 minutes for 2.5 US dollars. That's a positive. A negative - they have a Hooters here. Give me a break.

*Full Bolt Photo Gallery Here

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