Usain Bolt says the feeling of being placed in the same league with Reggae icon Bob Marley as two Jamaican legends is one he still finds “indescribable”, despite his fame and fortune.
The 34-year-old is now widely considered the greatest sprinter of all time with eight Olympic Gold medals and world records in 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4 × 100 meters relay.
Bolt was responding to questions posed by Irie FM’s K’Shema Francis on Thursday who, in asking about whether he felt he had fulfilled his life’s purpose, said that when most people think of Jamaica, two of the greatest names that come to mind, have been himself and the late Reggae legend.
“So, as I said I am trying to build on my legacy but the joy of being called a legend is wonderful, but being compared with Bob Marley is something so massive. And people wouldn’t understand how I feel when I travel; and people always say to me one time when I used to travel all they talk about was just Bob Marley and now when they travel they hear Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. So it is wonderful and it also helps the tourist industry, because everybody wants to come to Jamaica to see and to glimpse,” Bolt said.
“I have met so many tourists in Jamaica who said ‘I came here hoping I would meet you and I am happy I did; I need a picture’. So for me it is a wonderful thing and there are no words to explain how I feel about this,” William Knibb Memorial High School old boy added.
A frenzied debate was sparked internationally during the 2016 Summer Olympics after NBC announcer Bob Costas suggested Bolt may be bigger even than Marley after the sprinter won his third consecutive Olympic victory in the men’s 100 meters.
“With apologies to all you Reggae fans, I think that Bolt has even outdistanced Marley, the way he outdistances the field,” Costas had declared at the time, shortly after Bolt completed his victory lap.
Prior to that, there had been comparisons made between the two men, which even prompted one of Radio Jamaica’s sports journalists Jeremain Brown, to write an opinion piece about the issue in July 2013, during the World Attletics Championship titled Who is more famous today, Usain Bolt or Bob Marley?
Brown had argued that despite all the comparisons and juxtaposing of the two men, based on his experience in the European country, it was really Brand Jamaica that was really “the bigger picture”. He noted that at the World Paralympic Championships, fellow journalists were asking them to exchange their shirts for their Jamaican shirts or to exchange their country pins.
“This debate has been popping up all over including in Jamaica. Some say its non-debatable, it’s the King of Reggae, Marley while some disagree and say it’s the sprint king, Bolt…One thing is for sure though they both represent brand Jamaica to the fullest and are the front running ambassadors at this point,” Brown had written at the time.
“Everywhere my collegaues and I travel in Lyon whether it is on the train, on the bus, or taxis once we are wearing our ‘Ja colours’, or mention Jamaica, the name ‘Usain Bolt’ is mentioned with great awe and admiration behind it, his trade mark ‘to di worl’ signature move has been well rehearsed and memorized,” he added.
Brown pointed out occasions during the French trip where he and his Jamaican colleagues were approached by French nationals who said they were big fans of Bolt, and others who said they were fans of Marley, one of whom told them he owned a catalogue “of over 100 Reggae albums”.