PIERS MOR­GAN

My per­sonal shoutout from Usain Bolt

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS -

FRI­DAY, JULY 27

Prince Al­bert of Monaco and his South African bride, Princess Char­lene, have been be­set by scan­dalous ru­mours since they mar­ried a year ago. Char­lene, 20 years the prince’s ju­nior, was even ac­cused of try­ing to flee Monaco on the eve of the wed­ding. And ever since, she’s had to run the gaunt­let of the scathing French me­dia cast­ing as­per­sions on her char­ac­ter, mo­tives, dress sense, and even her abil­ity to speak French. To­day, I sat down with them for a rare joint in­ter­view, which was full of sur­prises.

First, they’re the only royal cou­ple to have com­peted in the Olympics — Al­bert as part of Monaco’s bob­sleigh team (at five con­sec­u­tive Games, no less), Char­lene swim­ming for South Africa.

Sec­ond, Char­lene’s fan­tas­ti­cally en­ter­tain­ing. She spoke to me in French ( bet­ter than mine), joked about the ben­e­fits of be­ing a princess (‘I get to wear a tiara!’), mocked the ‘flee­ing’ re­port (‘I was shop­ping with my mother!’) and later texted me a very funny joke John Cleese had sent her about Olympic coun­tries as seen through their stereo­types.

Third, Al­bert, too, is a dark horse. He has a rather dull im­age, which I fear rather comes with the job, but any man who can hur­tle head­first ( he was the bob­sleigh pi­lot, so the guy at the front) down an ice tun­nel at 100mph, and woo a feisty, funny, very glam­orous lady like Char­lene, is not a bor­ing man.

WED­NES­DAY, AU­GUST 1

This morn­ing I was emailed the in­ter­view run­ning or­der for my CNN Olympic show, and did a dou­ble take. There was my sports-watch­ing youth laid bare: Se­bas­tian Coe, Carl Lewis, Olga Kor­but, Michael John­son, Greg Louga­nis… five of the most fa­mous Olympians in his­tory. Since Michael Phelps broke the all-time world Olympic medal-win­ning record last night, the hot topic has been whether he’s the great­est Olympian ever.

Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, the track-and­field stars didn’t think so. Coe, who’s done a quite in­cred­i­ble job run­ning these Games, nom­i­nated Jesse Owens — whose four daz­zling sprint­ing/jump­ing golds in 1936 in front of Hitler were about so much more than just run­ning fast. Lewis — who many be­lieve is the No. 1 him­self af­ter nine golds in sprint­ing and long jump — was more hes­i­tant. ‘All you can be is the best in your era,’ he said. ‘I beat ev­ery­one in my gen­er­a­tion, so did Jesse.’

For me, though, it’s hard to look be­yond Usain Bolt. Not just the fastest run­ner in his­tory, but the most charis­matic, too.

‘I was one of only two peo­ple Usain Bolt tweeted (Richard Bran­son was the other), say­ing:

‘You called it, man’

THURS­DAY, AU­GUST 2

Fabrice Muamba, the foot­baller who came back from the dead, walked into my CNN stu­dio to­day, look­ing fit, well and happy. Which was pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary given that it’s been just four months since he col­lapsed dur­ing a Bolton v Spurs match, and his heart stopped beat­ing for 78 min­utes.

It was as­sumed that Muamba, 24, would never play football again. So imag­ine my shock when he told me: ‘I’ve played again al­ready.’ I looked at him, be­mused. ‘You have?’

‘Yes, in Dubai, in May, at the Jumeirah Beach Ho­tel. I was there with a few other Premier League foot­ballers on hol­i­day, and they were play­ing a game against the ho­tel staff. I couldn’t re­sist it, and just grabbed a vest and ran out to play for 25 min­utes. No­body found out.’ ‘How did it feel?’ ‘Amaz­ing, the best ex­pe­ri­ence of my life. Want to see the pho­tos?’ Fabrice pulled out his iPhone and showed me some pic­tures from the game. There he was, run­ning around, kick­ing a football with a mas­sive grin on his face. It al­most brought a tear to my eye.

‘Do you think you’ll play pro­fes­sion­ally again?’

‘I hope so. I’m fly­ing to see a spe­cial­ist in Bel­gium next week, and I’ll know more then. But I feel health­ier now than I did be­fore the in­ci­dent.’

Fabrice — a charm­ing, amus­ing, in­tel­li­gent young man as be­fits a for­mer Ar­se­nal player — has never watched the footage of him­self col­laps­ing, and isn’t sure if he ever will.

Those of us who did would never have dared hope he’d one day run out in a Premier League game again. Now, in the true Olympic spirit, we can dare to dream.

SUN­DAY, AU­GUST 5

Half an hour be­fore the big 100m fi­nal tonight, I donned my leg­en­dar­ily un­suc­cess­ful # Mys­ticMor­gan It started, like so many good ideas, with blind rage. A few days ago, I watched the five Welsh play­ers in the Team GB soc­cer team — in­clud­ing Craig Bel­lamy and cap­tain Ryan Giggs — all refuse to sing the na­tional an­them, and felt my blood boil. God Save The Queen may be the Eng­land an­them, but it’s also the of­fi­cial an­them of Great Bri­tain. If you ac­cept the hon­our of play­ing for Great Bri­tain, then you should damn well sing it, and put all parochial agen­das aside.

That anger ex­ac­er­bated when I watched Chris Hoy, a Scot, do the same af­ter win­ning his cy­cling gold. Or should I say, SIR Chris Hoy, knighted by the Queen. You’d think he, of all peo­ple, might feel able to sing a few bars of grat­i­tude to Her Majesty. Seething at the hypocrisy of these tight-lipped protests, I hit Twit­ter hard — of­fer­ing £1,000 to Great Or­mond Street Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal for any British ath­lete who won gold and sang the an­them. The re­ac­tion was fast, and fu­ri­ous. I’d clearly hit a nerve, and was praised and lam­basted in equal mea­sure.

But then two mirac­u­lous things hap­pened — Brits be­gan win­ning al­most ev­ery­thing, and the ma­jor­ity of them sang the an­them. Even Andy Mur­ray, the sup­pos­edly great English-hater.

As I write this, I’m £22,000 in the red, and it’s likely to go higher. But it’s go­ing to a fan­tas­tic char­ity.

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