Saturday, December 1, 2012

My night out with Bolt and Barcelona stars

PHOTO | LLUIS GENE (From3rdL) Kenya's athlete David Rudisha, Prince Albert of Monaco, Jamaica's athlete Usain Bolt, IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) President Lamine Diack and US sprinter Allyson Felix pose at the end of the IAAF Athlete of the Year 2012 Award marking the centenary of IAAF on November 24, 2012 in Barcelona.

PHOTO | LLUIS GENE (From3rdL) Kenya's athlete David Rudisha, Prince Albert of Monaco, Jamaica's athlete Usain Bolt, IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) President Lamine Diack and US sprinter Allyson Felix pose at the end of the IAAF Athlete of the Year 2012 Award marking the centenary of IAAF on November 24, 2012 in Barcelona.  AFP

By ELIAS MAKORI

Barcelona was awash with track and field celebrities last weekend, alongside the usual suspects from FC Barcelona, arguably the world’s greatest football club.

The track and field stars had assembled for the centenary celebrations of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) that also featured the body’s annual awards gala which crowned, for the fourth time, Jamaican sprints legend Usain Bolt as the world’s greatest male athlete.

American sprinter Allyson Felix took the Female Athlete of the Year award while Kenyan Olympic hero David Rudisha won the Performance of the Year award for his 1:40.91 world record run at the London Games.

The historic weekend assembled Catalunya’s best chefs from the region’s top four restaurant with the red carpet IAAF Centenary Gala Night dinner last Saturday held at Barcelona’s historic Catalunya National Arts Museum.

Among the night’s artists on display was the famous Italian quartet pop and opera singers, Il Divo (the divine one), who electrified the audience with fantastic renditions of Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere and Francesco Sartori’s Time to say Goodbye against the backdrop of music by the Electric Colour Orchestra, directed by Raul Patino, and two choirs — the Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu and Coral Polifonica de Puig-reig.

After the formalities of the black tie dinner, it was then time for the guests to unwind in an after-party held at the beachside, exclusive and opulent Opium Mar discotheque where a Johnnie Walker whiskey sets one back Sh2,700 for a double.

Few people are aware that Bolt would be the DJ for the night, his love for music being a passion behind athletics and cricket.

Barcelona never sleeps and most of the clubs offer free admission before 1am.

Bolt’s agent, Englishman Ricky Simms, checks into the club with a CD music collection at 1.25am, explaining a few things to the resident DJ and a few minutes later, the Jamaican legend shows up with a security team of about five men in tow.

After surveying the crowd and posing for endless photographs, Bolt took a few minutes checking out the sound before releasing his night’s first number, 50 Cent’s hit It’s your Birthday.

At 1.50am as the action ascends a few decibels higher, Bolt’s greatest track rival and world 100 metres champion Johan “The Beast” Blake arrives, but unlike Bolt, there is hardly any security blanket over his movement.

With him is Great Britain’s Adam Gemili, the world junior sprints champion, and Japan’s Koji Mirofushi, Japan’s world hammer throw champion.

As I chat up Mirofushi, who shows a great desire to travel to Kenya and run courses on field events, Bolt works up the crowd with Rihanna’s hit Please Don’t Stop The Music, followed by Shakira’s number Hips Don’t Lie.

Interesting co-incidence because one of the bar women at Opium Mar told me Shakira frequents the club with her boyfriend, Spain and FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

Opium Mar, along with Club CLDC, is one of the top clubs in Barcelona’s “Beach Side”, which is frequented by tourists, unlike the city’s “Mountain Side” where you will find locals’ hang-outs like Club Sutton, Bling Bling and Prive.

A marverick on the decks

“I have served most of the FC Barcelona footballers here, Shakira and other celebrities like Akon, Black Eyed Peas and even Michael Jackson’s father and actor Jean-Claude van Damme,” the Romanian bar woman boasts to me.

The night is slowly hitting fever pitch as Bolt takes a few minutes away from the “cockpit” to meet his fans as the clock strikes 2am. He congratulates me once again for scooping the IAAF World Journalist of the Year award earlier in the day and says he’d like to come back to Kenya soon.

A few drinks later and the sprint legend is back, turning the revellers on with the popular Black Eyed Peas number I’ve got a Feeling.

Bolt definitely had a potent few drinks and his manager Simms politely requests that I don’t take photos of the legend in “full party mode”, and I oblige.

I soon understand why, as after telling fans to put their hands up in the air, and asking them to “scream and make some noise,” Bolt jumps onto a table and works up the crowd further before melting away into the glitzy Catalan night with his entourage a few minutes after 3am.

A couple of month’s back after the Brussels Samsung Diamond League track and field competition, Bolt hosted the biggest ever athletics after-party with over 10,000 paying revellers dancing to his music.

Besides his lightning fast speed, the Jamaican legend’s deejaying skills are legendary, as I discovered in the beautiful city of Barcelona.

emakori@ke.nationmedia.com satnation@ke.nationmedia.com