Expect a Bolt of excitement

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

After 30 years of writing sports, you don't get mesmerized all that often.

But every once in a while along comes a Muhammad Ali, along comes a Michael Jordan or a Mario Lemieux, and you stop, you catch your breath and remember how fortunate you are to have the best seat in the house.

Usain Bolt did that to me. He ran fast and froze everyone else around him in amazement.

I was seated not far from the track at the Bird's Nest late on a summer night in Beijing when Bolt shattered the world record in the 100 metres.

It was the fourth time in my life I had witnessed the record change in person -- but clearly this time was different, completely captivating.

It was enough to bring me back to the track to watch him run his ridiculous time in the 200 a few nights later and back again for the 4 X 100 metre relay: Three races, three gold medals, three world records, three breathtaking performances.

You can have your Michael Phelps and all your swim medals -- I've seen a bunch of them the last two Summer Olympics -- but I wouldn't necessarily pay to watch him swim.

I'm buying tickets so my kids can say they saw Usain Bolt run in Toronto.

The way my brother saw The Beatles when they were here.

The way so many went to Woodbine to watch Secretariat run.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime kind of athlete. This isn't any paid political announcement. This is from the heart. If Bolt does what only he can do, he is worth the price of admission, even these lofty prices.

And I say that with a proviso.

Track events can disappoint. The great match race, Donovan Bailey vs. Michael Johnson at the SkyDome was a big bust years ago. If Bolt is the take-the-money-and-not-run kind of guy -- he is getting a large appearance fee for being here -- this could end up rather lame.

But I'm betting against that because Bolt didn't seem to be the typical high-strung, me-first, entourage-driven sprinter.

He seemed more like a happy kid, amazing us, amazing himself. What some people interpreted as cockiness, others interpreted as playfulness.

If he shows any of that speed, any of those characteristics on the track at the University of Toronto in 16 days, this will be a memorable appearance. It doesn't necessarily matter who he is running against.

At the Olympics, Bolt ran against the best in the world and rendered all of them insignificant as the best of champions often do.

Who finished second? Who won the bronze?

Does anybody really remember?

But there are some real people for him to run against here, even if their names on a marquee wouldn't draw flies. Shawn Crawford would be a big name if there were many real big names left in track. He won gold in the 200 metres at Athens, finished second behind Bolt in Beijing four years later. He'll be running against Bolt in the 100 here, with three-other sub-10-second hundred runners.

That's the big part of the show. The rest is a platform for the U of T, looking to establish its new stadium as something special, looking to define itself as a destination for the regrowth of track and field in Ontario. All that is worthwhile, also.

KIDS TO RUN

A program called Playground to Podium will attempt to demonstrate how much fun you can have with athletics, and 250 elementary school children will each run 200 metres in a relay race -- 5,000 metres in all -- hoping to break Bruce Kidd's Canadian record which has been around about a million years.

But let's be honest, you can dress this it up with hurdlers Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien and Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay, and under normal circumstances no one would pay $75 or $250.

Bolt changes everything. He makes the $25 Festival seating tickets a bargain, even if you get no seat on what promoters are calling Lane 9.

You get to see Usain Bolt. And maybe, 10 seconds you'll remember forever.


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