KINGSTON, Jamaica - Hundreds of Jamaicans who braved the wind and heavy rain to watch outdoor screenings of the Olympic 100 meters final on Sunday, erupted in wild celebration, blowing horns, banging pots and pans and waving flags, as their star sprinter Usain 'Lightning' Bolt retained his title.
"Usain Bolt is the real McCoy," said one spectator, Alex Banbury, who watched the race on a giant video screen. "I knew all along that he would (win) the race, because he is a big occasion athlete."
|Jamaicans celebrate after watching Usain Bolt win the men's 100 metres final during the London 2012 Olympic Games, as they gather in Half Way Tree in Kingston August 5, 2012. Photo by Gilbert Bellamy, Reuters.
Bolt's victory, in a new Olympic record time, gave the Caribbean nation of less than 3 million people an extra reason to celebrate on the eve of its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain on Monday.
It also came on top of Jamaica's female sprinters, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown, winning gold and bronze respectively in the 100 meters on Saturday.
Bolt's training partner and fellow Jamaican Yohan 'The Beast' Blake won silver while a third Jamaican, Asafa Powell, finished last after struggling with a groin injury.
After the race Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson hailed the "sheer brilliance" of Bolt and Blake, as well as the female sprinters.
"Earlier today, the nation stood with pride at the playing of our National Anthem, and the hoisting of the National Flag of Jamaica for our female athletes," she said, referring to Saturday's medals ceremony for the women's 100 meters.
"Then, a few minutes ago, the world stood still as three Jamaican male athletes ... went into the blocks for the men's 100-meter final.
"I congratulate Usain Bolt on setting a new Olympic record, a truly magnificent performance," Simpson said.
"Of the six medals available in the 100-meter men's and 100-meter women's finals, Jamaica has captured four. This performance of our men and women demonstrates, once again, that Jamaica is more than a name, more than a brand: it is the pride a people."
Bolt, who turns 26 later this month, is a living legend in his home country. He has more than 714,000 followers on Twitter and is the island's top celebrity after reggae's Bob Marley.
At the Beijing games in 2008, Bolt won three golds - in the 100- and 200-meter competitions, as well as the four-man 100-meter relay - all in world record times.
Many Jamaicans look to the London Olympics as a golden opportunity to promote the island's best features, blocking out other more negative traits, including one of the highest murder rates in the world, largely due to gang-related violence fueled by drug money.
The island's tourism board has featured Bolt in ads promoting its sunny beaches and laid-back Caribbean culture, and Air Jamaica promotes its flights to the homeland of "the world's fastest man."
Police had problems trying to contain the large crowd that gathered outside the busy Half-Way-Tree intersection in downtown Kingston where spectators gathered around a giant video screen, ignoring the wind and rain of Tropical Storm Ernesto swirling just off the island's south coast.
As the race drew nearer, motorists blocked streets, ignoring green lights in order to catch the race, despite pleas by police for them to move on and allow the traffic to flow.
"I can't drive off now, man," one motorist was overheard telling a policeman trying to get traffic to move.
"Give me a ticket if you want but I am going to watch that race on that big screen," the man insisted, as the policeman walked away in frustration to deal with other sections of the crowd. (Writing by David Adams; Editing by Eric Walsh)