“You Wouldn’t Need Bolt”- Track Legend Michael Johnson Points Out Over-Reliance on Usain Bolt to Make Track and Field Prominent

Published 05/15/2022, 8:15 AM EDT

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Track and Field is a sport that has been synonymous with the name of Usain Bolt for a long time. You think track; think Bolt. Certainly, Bolt’s feats of athleticism have done a lot for the sport in terms of presentation and viewership. But since Bolt retired, has track and field had the same popularity amongst people?

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Four Olympic and eight World Championships gold medalist Michael Johnson recently shared his opinion on Bolt’s effect. In addition, he talks about the issues that stand in the way of Track and Field garnering better viewership.

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Usain Bolt and his effect on the sport

In a recent tweet, Johnson talked about the usual complaints we see concerning questions raised about the sport. According to him, half of the objections are misguided. It is more of an inquiry about presentation and coverage in the media. Bolt’s inclination to smash records predominantly influenced the image of the sport. But what about the sport itself?

“You’re sort of picking up in the middle of the problem. Bolt was great for the sport because presentation of the sport sucked,” he said. “If presentation of the sport was better you wouldn’t need a Bolt. Sport is competition. One person dominating is an exhibition.”

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Why Do Track and Field Athletes Earn Lesser Than Others During Olympics?

It isn’t that the sport lacks star athletes or head-to-head competitors. However, Johnson says that the lack of consistent quality TV and uncertainty regarding the sport’s identity (amateur, Olympic, or professional) might be the actual problems.

How does track and field place in terms of viewership?

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The Diamond League and the World Athletics Championships are major international events held by World Athletics. However, in terms of viewership, they don’t do quite as well as many other mainstream sports.

It also contributes to the pay disparity between track athletes and other sports. Only with good viewership come sponsors and advertisers. Even if track and field is one of the most popular Olympic sports, it doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as other sporting events. 

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Over the years, sports governing bodies are making efforts to increase viewer-friendliness. In the same way, track and field need to be marketed and presented in the media with much more rigor so that the athletes gain the viewership and the subsequent pay raise they deserve.

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WATCH: When a Cameraman Cleaned Out Usain Bolt After His Olympics Win

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Written by:

Mansi Jain

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Mansi Jain is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. She has a Bachelor's degree in Multimedia and Mass Communication from the University of Delhi and has also previously interned for HT Media. She is always one mention of Yuzuru Hanyu away from delivering an hour-long speech about the athlete's legacy.
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