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Usain Bolt’s retirement from the global stage in 2017 felt like a blow to the intrigue of the Olympic Games, now facing an uphill battle to recreate the spectacle of watching the fastest man on Earth break all-time records.
Bolt gave his thoughts on whether he would compete in the current state of the Olympics during an interview with Yahoo Sports. The eight-time Olympic gold medalist argued that the absence of fans would likely hinder his performance.
“I can’t compete without fans,” commented Bolt, reflecting on the IOC’s decision to ban spectators from the Games due to rising cases of coronavirus. “It would be so weird and out of the ordinary. I know for people who are like me and really live for fans, it’s going to be tough for them. So, hopefully they can remember that it’s been two years of training and dedicating their lives to this moment.”
Building a legacy since his performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Bolt’s notoriety alongside names like U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps in the early 2010s produced buzz around the Olympic Games that feels lost among modern audiences. In 2012, Bolt’s 100-meter sprint garnered 20 million viewers, which was a record-breaking audience for the BBC network en route to a gold medal for the Olympic great.
The quality and audience of the Olympic Games since Bolt retired proved to be a sharper decline than expected. The 2021 games, thus far, have faced PR nightmares unlike any sporting event in recent history. The host has had to answer for headlines ranging from event directors getting called out for Holocaust jokes to political activism from athletes.