Coverage of Usain Bolt raises controversy

The Internet is still buzzing about NBC’s Olympic commentators Bob Costas and Ato Boldon’s public slamming and chastising of Usain Bolt for what they called unacceptable “showboating” at the end of his world-record setting 100-meter dash victory.
Yes, there were some who sided with Costas and Boldon (a former Trinidad and Tobago Olympian), but the overwhelming bulk of the responses were vehemently pro-Bolt.
For many TV viewers, the comments came totally out of left field, but they may possibly have been an intentional continuation of an NBCOlympics.com online story written by Alan Abrahamson posted just after the race. Their verbal assault on the Jamaican runner practically mirrors parts of the piece.
“Incredibly, Bolt, 21, could have gone faster. With a full seven strides to go, he dropped his arms and let them fall outstretched to his sides, appearing almost to run sideways as he played to the sold-out crowd of 91,000 at the Bird’s Nest. Just before the finish line, he started high-stepping and, for good measure, executed a chest-thump,” the article read.
Costas seemed the take this article’s premise and run with it, calling Bolt’s “showboating” disrespectful to his competitors, the Olympic Games and to the fans. Then Costas passed the baton to Boldon, who took it home by saying Bolt’s actions were inappropriate and even adding: “You kids at home, this is not how you behave as an Olympic champion.”
Among the latest to weigh in on the comments was Bolt’s father.
“Usain was simply being himself, he likes to celebrate when he does well and there was no time he was trying to put down the other runners in the race,” said Wellesley Bolt in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week.
However, Dan Shanoff, a writer for the SportingNews.com-sponsored site “The Sporting Blog,” and others were not as even-handed in their criticism of the commentators’ remarks.
“Let me defend Usain Bolt from prudes like Bob Costas, who apparently felt that someone whose week-long display of flamboyant sycophancy of Michael Phelps qualifies him as a journalistic paragon who might preach unchallenged from the anchor’s pulpit,” Shanoff wrote.
“Don’t blame him for being so far ahead at 85 meters that he could celebrate early; surely, if anyone in the rest of the field was closer to him, he would have dug in - again, not for any world record, but for this Olympic ideal Costas claims he disrespects.”
On the CBS Sports Community’s Global View online bulletin board, jimjdank wrote, “No one rips the U.S. swim team when they yell and scream at the end of a relay race. I think Bolt’s celebration was somewhat more understated than the 4 X 100 relay swim team reaction.”
Marie Bellerand of Barbados wrote on topix.com’s Olympic Forum site: “I saw so many other athletes gesturing and pointing fingers, why should Costas single out Bolt?”
From the Yahoo! Sports board listing “Why is NBC ignoring Usain Bolt?” poster Javith said: “I thought the U.S. audience would be most capable of separating youthful jubilation by Bolt and not call it cockiness or arrogance. Phelps and the U.S. team’s screams after they won the 4 X 100 gold, but nobody talks about that.

Brunch with art
The Carlos Lezama Archives and Caribbean Cultural Center, named for the late organizer of the West Indian American Day Carnival, will be holding its “Carnival Season Brunch,” an open house and art exhibition Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
The event will take place at the center, 1028 St. John’s Place (between Brooklyn and Kingston Avenues). Call 718-467-1797 for information.
S.O.B.’s showcases soca star
For the show of a lifetime, catch a rare up-close and personal performance of dynamic soca star Machel Montano at S.O.B.’s, 204 Varick Street (at West Houston Street) in Manhattan Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and available on Ticketweb.com and the S.O.B.’s box office. Call 212-243-4940.

Spotlight on Haitian music
The best and the brightest in the Haitian music scene will be honored Saturday in Elmont, L.I., at the OpaMizik.com’s Opa Gala Award Ceremony Dinner Party at the Doubletree/Hilton Hotel at Kennedy Airport, 135-30 140th Street in Jamaica, Queens, starting at 7 p.m.
There will be an open bar, fashion show featuring top Haitian designers, an art auction and a musical performance by the popular Phantoms band and other groups. For tickets and information, call 516-322-8200.

The poet and the borough
Walt Whitman’s influence on the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene will be discussed by Whitman authority Greg Trupiano at a talk Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Clinton Hill Art Gallery, 154A Vanderbilt Avenue. The talk concludes the gallery’s summer “Power Chats” series. Call 718-857-0074 or 718-852-0227 for information.

Films in Fulton Park
Free screenings of “Pan in Brooklyn,” a film short about the annual pre-dawn J’Ouvert celebrations that precede the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Labor Day, and “The Wiz,” starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor, will be held Friday as part of the MoCADA KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy. The films will be shown in Fulton Park, at Utica Avenue and Fulton Street, starring a 8 p.m. Call 718-230-0492.

This column is reprinted from the August 24 Sunday editions of The New York Daily News. If you have any items suitable for this column please e-mail them to jmccallister@nydailynews.com.

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