Today, it was announced that Yohan Blake would not be returning to the UK to compete in the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix for financial reasons. On top of this, Blake and Usain Bolt will not be competing against one another for the rest of the season.
At this Sunday’s Grand Prix in the heart of Birmingham, where there is a large Caribbean community, there will be a 200m race. However, Blake’s manager angrily shot at the organizers for their offer of $40,000 to the sprinter to participate.
This is well below Blake’s usual fee of around $150,000. Yet, while Blake’s people were accusing the hosts of nepotism and penny-pinching, a spokesman came out to say “We can’t comment on negotiations with individual athletes but we’re delighted with the quality of Sunday’s field, which has 18 Olympic gold medallists and 46 medallists…We could have sold out Birmingham three times over on the back of Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford.”
In Blake’s absence, American Wallace Spearmon will lead the field.
Bolt will not be at the event either because he famously refuses to race in the UK due to the fact that, by British law, he could be liable to lose some of his earnings to the taxman (a law that was waived during the London Olympics).
Had Bolt not held this approach, and had Blake been offered an agreeable fee, it is likely that they would not race against each other anyway. They are both in Lausanne, Switzerland, tomorrow night, but Blake runs the 100m while Bolt runs the 200m. In fact, for the last three meets of the season, they will be competing in different events, as neither man relishes the head-to-head after the heat of the Olympic Games.
“I wouldn’t say we’re avoiding each other,” Bolt told reporters in Switzerland today. “But I don’t think we really want to run against each other for the rest of the season. Also, my coach didn’t want us to run together. If we had to we would, because it’s just another competition, but the Olympic Games are already gone so it doesn’t really matter. I think next season will be more fun and you’ll see us run against each other at the end of the season.”
Of course, this is what Bolt says. He can afford to say this and tell the press today that he would not bust a gut to try and break any world records. Blake, on the other hand, may want a few more shots at the crown. After all, if he wears Bolt down enough, maybe he could start taking home more of an appearance fee.
Although he does not seem as openly fussed about being taxed, Blake only commands half the amount of money that Bolt is offered.