FALMOUTH, Jamaica, Aug 15 – Traffic came to a standstill and thousands stood in muddy puddles after a heavy storm, but Usain Bolt had won so it was time to party.
The national green and yellow colours dominated streets as people poured out to watch the Rio Olympics 100m on giant screens.
It was cool and there was a slight drizzle, but nothing could put a damper on the island’s festivities.
As Bolt struck his familiar lightning pose, Jamaicans blew whistles and horns and banged metal pot covers.
They gathered in towns centres like Half Way Tree in Kingston, Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay and Falmouth, near where Bolt was born and developed as a runner into the global star.
Traffic halted in Sam Sharpe Square with spectators standing in puddles of water left from a heavy afternoon shower — without even seeming to notice — as they stretched to see a giant screen on the side of a building.
“The greatest ever,” said one man, who gave his name as Charlie. “He is the best. He can’t stop running now, he must go on.”
With tears running down her face Sonia Brown, a hotel worker from neighbouring Hanover parish, was still dressed in her uniform. She chanted “Usain, Usain, Usain” while intermittently blowing on a long red plastic Vuvuzela horn.
Strangers hugged and celebrated and not a single person admitted they had any doubts he would win.
– Collective gasp –
But there was a collective gasp as he came out of the blocks behind American rival Justin Gatlin. By the time Bolt had caught the field at the midpoint, the cheering had started and by the time he crossed the line, the party was in full swing.
“Jamaica is the land of speed, we have the fastest man and woman in the world,” Shiela Paul said. “We are going to win the two 200m and the two relays as well.”
Some Jamaicans though are hard to please. Joel Clarke, who said he raced against Bolt in high school, said his only disappointment was that Bolt did not go lower.
“I think he could have run faster, his start was poor and he slowed down at the end, but a gold is a gold, I am good with that.”
Clarke thinks the 200m will be easier for Bolt. “That’s his race, he will go hard there, it won’t be close.”
Eric Jones who is from Trelawny, Bolt’s hometown, said: “I felt like I was there, in Brazil. I did not want to take a taxi home and miss the race and I am glad I came here tonight to see history.”
While there were commiserations for Yohan Blake, who finished fourth and just missed a medal, there were no sympathies for American Justin Gatlin who has served two doping bans.
“Gatlin should retire now, he can’t beat Bolt, he only talks,” said Sydney Clarke, as he celebrated with a woman friend.
“Gatlin can’t back up his chat. Bolt will beat him every time no matter where they put the race.”