A veteran Brazilian journalist says that Usain Bolt is more popular than all of Brazil’s top sports personalities, including Pele, Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, and current football star Neymar.
But the Jamaican’s unmatched popularity is not because he is the greatest sprinter of all time – it’s due to his personality.
“Usain Bolt is an international world phenomenon, not only of sports, but also [because of] his communication with the crowd. He is like a master of ceremony of athletics and sports overall,” Claudio Nogueira told the Jamaica Observer.
Nogueira is covering his fourth Olympic Games with SporTV, a part of the powerful Globo Group of companies, which has the broadcast rights for the games. He has been a journalist with O’Globo since 1987.
“Bolt is more popular than Neymar. Neymar does not have such a good relationship with the media, although it’s not a specific problem of Neymar, but his generation of Brazilian football players,” Nogueira said. “He needs to be more humble, and if Neymar can be more humble he would be more of a star in Brazil.”
He said that, in general, Brazilians are poor people who don’t take kindly to people flashing their wealth around.
“Everybody knows that Neymar is rich, but you can’t show it all the time. Bolt is very informal. Brazilians love informal people that are not arrogant despite success,” Nogueira said.
“Bolt is successful, but not arrogant. He came to Brazil three or four times, and one time he went through a Brazilian favela called Mangueira, a place where there is a sports programme, and he mixed with children, then everybody start running on small tracks there. He is next to Brazilians, he has the Brazilian way,” Nogueira argued.
“Neymar is a superstar, but he is not as popular, especially because of Brazil’s defeat at the last World Cup, although he did not play against Germany,” Nogueira said in reference to Brazil’s 1-7 loss at home to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
“After that, Brazil lost in the Americas Cup and Neymar has not been as important for Brazil as he was for Santos. He is not important to [the] Brazilian team as he is to Barcelona,” said Nogueira, who also argued that the young footballer needed more maturity to handle his star status.
“The greatest idols of Brazilian sports are Pele and Senna. But unfortunately in Brazil, we don’t have such adoration for the past and history. In Brazil, people have a tendency to forget everything very fast,” Nogueira said. “So there are young people who did not see Pele play football or did not see Senna in Formula One. So I believe that, unfortunately, we don’t have such a great idol… so it’s possible Bolt could occupy that place, although he is not a Brazilian, [because] they see Bolt everytime on TV.”
Nogueira recalled being at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China when Bolt announced himself to the world in no uncertain manner with three world record runs – the 100m in 9.69 seconds; 200m in 19.30; and as a member of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team that won in 37.10 seconds.
He admitted he never suspected that Bolt would become the global star he is today.
“He is probably the most well-known Jamaican around the world. I remember in 2008 in Beijing when he won for the first time at the Olympics a lady from the Government (Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange) said he would be known around the world as [well as] Bob Marley. At the time, I said ‘that’s impossible because Bob Marley is loved all around the world’. But now I can say that she was right,” Nogueira said. “Jamaica should be proud of Bolt, and not only Bolt, but of this group [of athletes]. Jamaica is the fastest nation in the world.” (Jamaica Observer)