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There are moments in highly organized not to mention pretentious events like the Olympics, which ranks horseback riding and boat sailing alongside sprinting, when rules essential to keep up formal appearances must be put aside just the same. One such moment is in the raw exaltation of pure human triumph, where no horse or vessel shared the agony and the ecstasy of victory; just man alone.
As he led Jamaica, a destitute, barely governable, beach resort of a country, to a world-record setting victory in the 4 x 100 relay, Usain Bolt hung on to the baton. Bolt crossed the finish line but did not stop there, said Yahoo! He blew past the woman British official at the track who has "the unenviable job of collecting the relay batons."
A video clip shows her reaching out for it but bolt "playfully" - and here I correct Yahoo! - clasped the baton to his chest. He did not "snatch it into his chest," as Yahoo! put it. For chrissake, he did not stab himself with the baton. Who edits Yahoo!? At any rate, Bolt still had the baton in his hand when the triumphant Jamaicans walked to the stands.
There Olympic officials came up to him and demanded the baton. Under threat of disqualification, he surrendered it, said another report. But he got it back in the end. Maybe, said Yahoo!, because Usain Bolt had won his sixth gold in six races, and this could be the last in his Olympic career. "The IOC never likes to make exceptions but this was an easy one for them to look the other way."
I don't think they made an exception. The head of the IOC hates Usain, would not concede he is what he is, an Olympic legend unlike someone Bogge mentioned as having sailed a couple of boats victoriously in a couple of Olympics and another who rode a couple of horses with the same result. But an athlete is always the same man and with each Olympics he just gets older and weaker; but a sailor and a rider change boats and horses with every race.
The real reason IOC officials gave him back the baton was to save their collective face. The world saw the IOC take back what had changed ownership by the end of the race. It was no longer anyone else's property but Usain Bolt's, his teammates' and Jamaica's. It is in the laws of contract and evidence: possession is 9/10ths of the law; unprecedented human triumph, without horse or boat doing most of the work, confers full, unilateral and legendary ownership.
Bolt and his teammates acquired possession of the relay baton by qualifying for the event hardest on the human body and spirit; they retained it by running in relays to victory when possession turns into ownership, achievement turns to glory, and the baton turns into a symbol of human endurance and another nation’s honor.
But let me focus on the woman official at the track who did not insist on taking back the baton. She was surely nervous that IOC officials who hated Usain for his exuberant antics on the track would take it out on her. Yet she could not bring herself to insist on taking it. Indeed, higher ups must have taken it out on her because they went to the stands and took the baton from Bolt. But they gave it back when the baton got too hot to handle for hands more accustomed with holding champagne flutes than giving right recognition and just compensation to the great athletes who make Olympic history and make billions of dollars for the IOC to lavish on lawn parties in Switzerland for its overpaid officials.
We laud the woman official at the track for standing up to false formality and petty protocol; to let a champion keep every bit of what he and his teammates had so painfully won. We don't know her name. The Olympic games are full of heroes. Not all of them compete against each other; some compete against their duty to do what is right over all.