My personal shoutout from Usain Bolt
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.