First came the bouncy Eurythmics song, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," followed by polite introductions of the other runners in the Olympic 100-meter qualifying heat. Bolt was running in Lane 7, clearly operating on a different plane than everybody else in his sport.
"Welcoming to London 2012 … the fastest man in history!" the stadium announcer bellowed.
Finally. The man so many fans came to see removed the dark ski cap he wore during warm-ups and rubbed both hands over his bald head as the crowd of 80,000 roared.
"I expected that reception in London and was looking forward to it," said Bolt, 25.
He nodded in rhythm with the beat as he stretched long, muscular legs on loan from God. He pranced gracefully on his feet like a boxer. He looked more pensive than playful, like a man with history on his mind.
Making the sign of the cross, Bolt fastened his feet in the starting blocks. On the same track Oscar Pistorius — the South African double-amputee 400 runner known as "The Blade Runner" — provided inspiration, Bolt fed the imagination.
The most exciting 10 seconds in sports is not a Devin Hester kickoff return, thrilling as it is. It is not Kobe or LeBron holding the ball as the shot clock winds down or an odd-man rush in overtime during the NHL playoffs. The most exciting 10 seconds in sports come again Sunday night, when Bolt runs the 100 final. They came Saturday in a qualifying tune-up he considered routine but I called riveting.
The naked eye missed Bolt's stumble out of the blocks, but it was the type of imprecision that can mean the difference between gold and silver, dominance and disappointment. Bolt recovered well enough to make it look so easy that Olympic champion Michael Johnson, now a BBC analyst, commented that Bolt "never really ran." It was not so much a bolt as a stroll. So relaxed was Bolt that he casually glanced to his left in the final steps before the finish line.
"I stumbled, but I'm glad it happened now and not in the final," Bolt said.
His time of 10.09 was the slowest of the seven heats in the first round. But nobody's fooled and everybody in the field still respects, if not fears, Bolt. They have 9.58 reasons to do so.
"He's the equivalent of a guy walking on the moon for the first time," U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin said. "A lot of runners almost have an audience mentality. You've got to block that out."
If anybody can, it should be Jamaican teammate and training buddy Yohan Blake, who arrived with the fastest 100 time this year: 9.75. U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay, the second-fastest man ever, cannot be discounted. Nor can fellow Americans Gatlin or Ryan Bailey, who recorded Saturday's fastest time with a personal-best 9.88.
If the Olympic track were an English residential street they would install a roundabout to slow traffic down — 52 Olympians posted personal bests Friday. That allows for the element of surprise. Still, many will be surprised if the 100 winner isn't Bolt. That includes Bolt.
In a first-person account for the Daily Mail, Bolt teased his fans.
"Maybe I will run the 100 in 9.4 in London," wrote Bolt, who also will defend gold medals in the 200 and 400 relay.
Sprinters have egos and auras that make NFL wide receivers seem monastic. The tabloids here don't have enough pages for Bolt bits and he happily feeds the beast. The NFL would love him.
"We are a great sporting nation, but Bolt's celebrity has put the spotlight globally on Jamaica," said Torrance Lewis, a Jamaican tourism executive in London who watched Saturday. "It gives us great pride. The world is curious about him."
Thus we know that Bolt owns six cars and downed 15 chicken nuggets every meal at the Beijing Olympics because that's all his stomach could digest. That he fights being "naturally lazy," and, pre-Olympics, says he won "gold medals for partying." That he taught Prince Harry his famous "To Di World," pose and owns a pet cheetah.
We also know Bolt could make lightning strike twice at these Olympics by winning the 100 and 200 again, transcending sports as only the brightest star at these Games can.