Billy Connolly & Usain Bolt



For our Christmas entertainment in 2016 we bought two DVDs. One was ‘Billy Connolly Wild Horse Tour’ and the other one was ‘I Am Bolt’.

The first one we watched was the Billy Connolly one. He always makes me laugh and even though I was less than a week from having my gall bladder removed I was prepared to risk the integrity of the stitching and dressings during this ninety odd minutes. I don’t often take note of the critics’ comments that are bannered across the packaging of DVDs but there were two, in fact there were only two on the casing. The Guardian said ‘This show is not the work of a man with a diminished sense of humour – it’ classic Connolly culled from a 50-year career.’ That was a good omen. The Telegraph review said that ‘It’s no sentimental journey but business as usual, with the ease of a consummate story teller’. Another good omen that my stiches were at risk.

For those of who do not yet know, Billy Connolly has Parkinson’s and has been through treatment for prostate cancer.

It was brave of him to go on stage to perform and full marks to him for doing so. Yes, he still has an absolutely wicked sense of humour which illuminates his anecdotes from childhood in Glasgow through to his latest health issues. In fact, it is precisely those health issues and their associated anecdotes that are the best part of this stage show. He is candid about Parkinson’s and gets across a message about prostate cancer.

The show is definitely not the work of a man with ‘a diminished sense of humour’ and nor is he making a sentimental journey.

However, what I do feel is that the recording was just one performance too far. For those fans who wanted to see his usual energy, spontaneity with life and energy in his eyes I am afraid they have gone. If you want to remember Billy Connolly performing with all of those qualities summed up as ‘stagecraft’ then I would be very reluctant to recommend this DVD.

Billy Connolly now lives in New York and I can’t help feel for him as his progression through Parkinson’s continues. I have a favourite uncle, Colin, who has the disease and it is cruel beyond heart breaking the toll it extracts from both the sufferer and their families.

‘I Am Bolt’ is a documentary about the life of Usain Bolt. This film doesn’t just show his outstanding performances on the track but also thee blood, sweat and tears that lubricate the gears and engine of his success. This is excellent viewing for any one aspiring to be the best not only in sport but any other field of endeavour they choose. The path to brilliance is not linear.

There were two very telling moments in the build up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. One of those moments came during a training session where the star of the film was pleading with his cach that he wanted a holiday. For almost two decades of his life he has been governed by training schedules, diet, competitions and the inevitable injuries that any athlete will suffer and have to recover from. Countless hours in airplanes and countless nights in lonely hotel rooms around the world. All he wanted was time to himself.

The other telling and insightful moment was a comment by one of his support team. They acknowledged that Usain Bolt had become the best. They also acknowledged that when you become that good your only competition is yourself and that is one of the loneliest places on earth anyone can suffer.

It was the confluence of having been at the top for three Olympiads knowing he had achieved everything he could meeting the primal cry for a holiday and the loneliness of being the best that lead Usain Bolt to announce his retirement after the 2016 Olympics.

‘There are two tragedies in life. One is to love your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.’ (George Bernard Shaw.)

He could have trained punishingly for another four years, competed for another four years at the top and competed in the 2020 Olympics, run the risk of getting beaten and then only known as a former champion. Whereas by retiring when he did our memories of his greatness can never be tainted by defeat.


About alangrenville

I live in southern Britain near the fabulous New Forest. While studying for a BSc in International Studies I have developed a strong belief in 'NIBAW' or 'nothing is black and white'. Hence my favourite saying "Too often we...enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought" (John F Kennedy).
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