Are we going to remember that Bolt was here a year from now?

Retired Jamaican athletic superstar Usain Bolt during the PUMA School of Speed competition at Ruimsig Stadium on January 29.
Retired Jamaican athletic superstar Usain Bolt during the PUMA School of Speed competition at Ruimsig Stadium on January 29.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

South African sport can be the best and the worst of things.

The former applies when somehow we're able to attract foreign sports stars under the premise of wanting to grow the game at grass-roots level.

The latter works in the direction of the same premise having a short term shelf-life with the aim of maximising a brand.

Usain Bolt's visit‚ one of many by stars of his kind‚ immediately springs to mind.

We all love Bolt and he rightly resonates with South Africans on so many levels.

He's from a Caribbean island (Jamaica) whom one of its former leaders (Michael Manley) was a staunch apartheid opponent.

One of Jamaica's favourite cricketing sons (Michael Holding) is currently serenading listeners with an upright and honest brand of commentary that's not always applicable in the South African broadcasting context.

Back to Bolt and his excellence as an athlete paired with his easy-going charm that makes marketers and fans to eat out of his hands.

Mamelodi Sundowns were the biggest beneficiaries of Bolt's South African sojourn and for a change‚ Chloorkop was swarming with reporters who's connection to football is limited to what happens in Europe.

After all‚ they had to cash in through their apparel sponsor Puma.

How the Bulls‚ who share the same sponsor‚ missed out on this boat‚ is another opinion for another day.

Like a proverbial flash of lightning he was on the athletics track in his storied career‚ Bolt will come and go‚ but is there a tangible legacy he will be leaving?

Probably not.

However‚ this is a uniquely South African phenomenon and not one that's going to change in the foreseeable future.

We've seen plenty of overseas sporting emissaries coming to South Africa on charm offensives that have seen ministers and the media on Cloud 9.

There's nothing wrong with being star-struck once in a while so long as the eye is kept on the prize.

It's a dreamland that's seen the powers-that-be forget the real reason why these stars come here.

Often enough‚ it's been at the expense of the grass-roots develops they're here to promote.

Are we going to remember that Bolt was here a year from now?

Are we going to remember he went to Ruimsig this time next year?

Are we going to be able to point to a positive impact Bolt's visit had on South African Athletics on January 29‚ 2019?

These questions are difficult and most of the time impossible to have an honest answer extracted from organisers.

They know exactly the kind of traction they need to gain and if it means providing a short-term opium to dull the senses‚ then so be it.

The questioning of these visits somehow seem to slip through the cracks and by the time normalcy returns after the whirlwind‚ we often find we're no better than we the day before.

Make no mistake‚ Bolt still has currency‚ if not more than Wayde van Niekerk‚ South Africa's current athletic poster boy and possibly the best ever 400m athlete.

The marketing companies that invest astronomical amounts of money in these athletes get a serious return in their investments.

Not at any stage they'd be complaining.

Their job is to milk every cent from their star's exposure. They must "dala what they must."

At times‚ these visits seem like an extension of the short sojourns movie stars make to underdeveloped countries.

It's a case of ticking off a box and continuing with life as normal.

For the everyday person with their everyday struggles‚ the more things change‚ the more they stay the same.

Bolt‚ like the many other sporting stars who will come to South Africa‚ will live long in the memories of those who were there and that's pretty much all we're left with.

As DJ Honda's puts it in his hit song Travelling Man that features Mos Def‚ memories don't live like people do‚ they always remember you‚ whether things are good or bad.

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