Selfie mania grips the Athletes’ Village, but Hong Kong Olympians avoid the Bolt brouhaha

The lesser spotted Usain Bolt is the talk of the Athletes’ Village, but young Hong Kong stars have their eyes on their personal heroes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 10:12am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 11:17pm

Usain Bolt is keeping a low profile at these Games.

The thousands of members of the media here are desperate to catch the fastest man on earth as he sets his targets on a ‘triple-triple’ of gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, having bagged the lot at Beijing 2008 and 2012.

And most of the 10,000 or so athletes here are equally keen for some face time, albeit to grab a selfie rather than an update on the state of his hamstring.

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You wonder if he ever looks back wistfully at 2008, when he could stroll the Athletes’ Village in Beijing’s Chaoyang district in relative anonymity – until the 17th August at least, the morning after he electrified sport in just 9.69 seconds.

Eight years later and Bolt is surely the man with the single most blinding star wattage here in Rio.

Who compares? Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian of all time, but there’s still large swathes of the world population who wouldn’t look once at him in the street, never mind twice.

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The US basketball team are globally famous, but Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are not in the same league as LeBron, who needs only one name and is not here. Besides, the pampered NBA stars are living on a luxury cruise liner called the Silver Cloud moored some 30 kilometres away from the hoi polloi in the village.

Credit to Bolt for not being too big to mingle with the rest of the athletes, although watching the non-stop parade of women blessed with incredible genetics stroll around the village, you could empathise.

But Bolt selfie sightings seem to be rare. “Since they came in with the selfie, it’s the worst thing. You hardly ever get asked for autographs any more. It’s always selfies,” he said in a recent interview with GQ.

Scouring the web, we could only find a comedic long-distance pic from some of Australia’s hockey players, and a lucky encounter at Heathrow from a few of England’s. Guam’s Regine Tugade seems to be one of the few to get up close, titling her pic ‘Guam’s fastest meets the world’s fastest’.

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Hong Kong’s team are in prime position to grab the selfie everyone wants: they were excited to find that Bolt is staying in the same building.

Rower Chiu Hin-chun wants even more though. After qualifying for an Olympics after just three years in his sport, he’s looking for some career advice.

“Last night I met Usain Bolt, but too many people came to ask him to take photos,” said the 21-year-old.

“Luckily he is living in our building so there might be chance to get a photo with him.

“I hope to have a chat with him because he is such a professional athlete – and the fastest man in the world.

“Maybe I’d ask him ‘how do you prepare for competitions’ because he is very experienced so maybe he can teach me a lot.”

Others in the HK team, though excited by the Jamaican’s proximity, had their eyes on other targets, with some of the swimmers more interested in their fellows.

Yvette Kong Man-yi wants to meet Phelps, “a hero of my sport and greatest Olympian of all time, so he’s top of my list.”

Siobhan Haughey is working up her courage to say hello to “Cameron McEvoy from Australia, he’s a very good swimmer and very smart. I’ve seen him at the dining hall and at the pool but I’m too shy, I don’t want to disturb him – but just being in the same place as these amazing super fast swimmers is amazing.”

But another of our pool starlets, Claudia Lau Yin-yan had a very sensible response to this reporter’s inane question about selfie targets:

“I want to grab a pic with my friends that I’ve got to know [at major championships] over the years rather than any stars. Like I’ve got to know someone from Tanzania at World Championships, I never see them at Asian Games.”

A timely reminder that some things are more important than celebrity social media name-dropping. There you go Usain – you’re safe from selfie-mania with Claudia.