In this year, with no Olympics or World Championships on the calendar, athletics is reshuffling its deck seeking the new face-of-the-sport to replace Usain Bolt who retired last year as the world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Retirement finds the Jamaican superstar sprinter continuing his long sought dream to play pro futbol, stating in 2016 that his dream was to play for Manchester United. Last month the 31 year-old Jamaican played 20 minutes for Norwegian team Stromsgodset in a friendly against Norway U19s.
But could there be something more that Usain Bolt could do for his old sport of athletics with his outsized persona and abundant free time after his futbol itch has even scratched?
Of all the component elements in the athletics’ sphere – athletes, events, governing bodies – the only one that has yet to organize within itself is the players. Every other aspect of the game has a unified body looking out for its interests. Only the athletes, those doing the actual running, jumping, and throwing, remain atomized into independent contractor status, thereby splintering any power that might come from their ranks.
Even as labor unions are in retreat in the USA, the movement to organize track and field athletes continues to search for a leader. And, at least from a PR standpoint, who better than the man who led virtually every race he ever entered?
The athletes, after all, are the suns around which every other aspect of the sport revolve. Without them, there are no need for the others.
This movement has reached repeated crossroads, but never one that galvanized just so. Athletes have never been able to find their Moses, the one who might lead them to a more promising land. Instead, like current IAAF president Sebastian Coe, former top athletes have tended toward maintaining their presence by entering the bureaucracy that had kept them in servility throughout their own careers.
Now, it would probably be a thankless undertaking for Bolt, with no guarantee of success. But wouldn’t it be something to see just the same?