Bolt reigns supreme but too many empty seats

Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:45pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Usain Bolt delivered. Mo Farah, Elaine Thompson, David Rudisha, three world records and a dominant United States played their part too, as athletics enjoyed being back in the limelight for the right reasons after a torrid year.

The absent Russia team were not missed but the absent fans were and organizers will need to find out why the crowds were so small for what should have been the centre-point of the Games.

Empty seats for morning sessions are not unusual, though not to the scale witnessed in Rio, and if they cannot sell out a 60,000-capacity stadium to watch Bolt in the Olympic 100 meters final then there is a problem somewhere along the line.

Bolt did his best to lift his sport, as he always does, completing his incredible triple-triple of 100metres, 200m and 4x100m relay to join Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis on nine gold medals as the most successful athletes in history.

The Jamaican also made sure that every media outlet and every fan got to see and hear him, aware as he is of his extraordinary standing as the shining beacon of hope and excellence amid the murk of doping and corruption.

There was much talk in Rio about who is going to fill the void once he retires next year and South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk made an early case with a stunning 400m victory to demolish Michael Johnson's 1999 world record.

Even that performance though was eclipsed by the extraordinary women's 10,000m final, where the first 13 finishers set personal bests.

While Van Niekerk's mark was widely acclaimed, Ethiopian Almaz Ayana was immediately questioned after destroying Wang Junxia's 1993 record by 14 seconds.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 4 x 100m Relay Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 19/08/2016. Usain Bolt (JAM) of Jamaica celebrates winning the Jamaican team's gold medal.   REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach