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Only Sh76 million? Give me a break!

Thursday September 10 2009

Usain Bolt of Jamaica drives a Ferrari. Bolt will meet with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi on Monday as part of a busy four-day schedule. Photos/ REUTERS

Usain Bolt of Jamaica drives a Ferrari. Bolt will meet with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi on Monday as part of a busy four-day schedule. Photos/ REUTERS 

By CHRIS MUSUMBA

For Usain Bolt, money is not everything. The triple Olympic and world sprinting champion has pulled out of two athletics competitions in Asia later this month that would have earned him an upward of about $1 million (Sh76 million).

Bolt is still fresh in our minds following his two world records in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds) and 200 metres (19.19 seconds) at last month’s World Championships in Athletics that was held in Beijing. His success has made him the most sought-after athlete.

Elite athletes

Bolt’s appearance fee is $250,000 (Sh19 million). In sports, appearance fee is the sum paid to elite athletes to show up at a competition, regardless of their performance in the game.

Prize money for winning competitions at such meetings is as high as $100,000 (Sh7.6 million). But Bolt is not excited about these figures.

He is giving two competitions in Shanghai, China (September 20), and Daegu, South Korea (September 25), a wide berth — competitions with a total cash reward of not less than Sh76 million.

The trip was to be taken after his appearance at the IAAF World Athletics Final this weekend in Thessaloniki, Greece. Having banked Sh22 million in winning three gold medals at the Berlin championships last month, “Lightning Bolt” is eying a deserved rest at his home in Trelawny, Jamaica.

Organisers of the Daegu competition had reportedly offered him an appearance fee of more than Sh38 million ($500,000) to try to bring the sport’s biggest star to Korea.

The Bolt camp also announced he would not be running in China either, and will instead finish his season in Greece.

The amount Bolt will forfeit is equivalent to that which Kenya’s Olympic 800m champion, Pamela Jelimo, won in the gruelling six-meeting IAAF Golden League jackpot series last season, catapulting her to world glory.

For the amount Bolt has declined to take, one can buy 127 reconditioned Toyota Corolla saloon cars from Dubai, or 77,000 bales of maize flour.

Well, for Bolt, this is not appealing enough to put his body on the line.

Fortunes rising

His fortunes are rising, and he has no plans to step down from the athletics circuit. “I plan to defend my titles at the next world championships (in the same city of Daegu in 2011) and Olympic Games in 2012 in London,” Bolt said.

“My aim is to be a legend, and that is what I am working on right now. I don’t put myself under pressure, I know what I have to do and when I go out there, I just focus on executing that as well as I can.”

Now, organisers in Korea and China will have to invoke a Plan B.

“We are trying to invite Asafa Powell of Jamaica (bronze medallist in Berlin) and Tyson Gay of the US (silver medallist in Berlin), but Gay could be a little hard because he has a thigh injury,” a committee official is quoted as saying.

“We feel really sorry not to have him (Bolt) at the competition, given the huge publicity effect he can bring to any athletic event,” said an official from the Daegu championships’ organising body.

Bolt, who broke his own 100m world record by clocking 9.58 seconds in Berlin last month, is due to run the 200 metres at the World Athletics Final in Greece this weekend, which is likely to wind up his long season.

Moon Dong-hoo, vice-president of the organising committee for the 2011 Daegu World Championships, said Bolt’s absence is expected to have a huge effect on the public interest in the Pre-Championship Meeting in Daegu.