By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The second installment of the Nitro Athletics Series ended in farce in Melbourne on Thursday, with a referee error that initially awarded the Australia team top ranking for the night by mistake, leaving headline athlete Usain Bolt fuming.
In the final 4×100 meters relay event at Lakeside Stadium, Australia were disqualified for a botched baton change and Bolt’s ‘All-Stars’ won the race comfortably. But the hosts were erroneously awarded points that left them at the top of the table at the expense of the Jamaican’s team.
The mishap was eventually corrected, awarding the night to the ‘All-Stars’, but not before the live broadcast of the event had finished and most of the crowd of 6,500 spectators, including IAAF President Sebastian Coe, had filed out of the stadium.
Bolt, who ran the third leg of the relay, was incredulous.
“(It’s) because it’s Australia. It’s biased!” Bolt yelled at trackside officials before the result was corrected. “I’m going to protest that – it makes no sense.”
“I don’t know what happened. I thought if you were DQ’d you’d be out (of the race) for sure or even lose some points but you can’t not lose any points,” he said.
Organizers said the error lay with an Australian referee.
Bolt was paid a seven-figure appearance fee to commit to all three meetings of the series in Melbourne this month and given a stake in the company running the event.
The series’ opening night last Saturday was hailed as a success, with solid television ratings and a decent crowd. But the organizers may hope to move on quickly from the second.
The scoring problem followed confusion during the women’s mile elimination race, which saw one of the runners leave the track in error, wrongly believing she had been knocked out for crossing the line last behind the other runners.
Adding to the confusion, New Zealander Camille Buscomb, running for the ‘All-Stars’, ran back on to the track to re-join the race which was won by Australia’s Heidi See.
Eight-times Olympic gold medalist Bolt, in his farewell season, has run only in the relays in the opening two nights of the series, but he held out the possibility he might run in the 150 meters sprint in the series finale on Saturday.
“I’ll probably have to double up depending on how this meeting goes,” he said.
“I’m not in the best of shape, but the more I run the better I feel. For me I’m just taking it a month at a time, trying to enjoy that it’s my last season. I’m not trying to overthink anything or trying to stress myself.”
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)