This primary assembly discusses the gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt and his recent adoption of a cheetah, and explores the idea of celebrities using their fame for good causes

Record breaking sprinter Usain Bolt has adopted a cheetah, raising the profile of the need to protect Kenya’s wildlife.

Teachers’ introduction
Usain Bolt of Jamaica, nickname ‘Lightning Bolt’ won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympics 100m, 200m and 4×100 m relay. He also holds the world record in the two sprint events.

In a recent visit to Kenya, Bolt ‘adopted’ an orphan cheetah cub, contracting to pay for its upkeep. The link between the world’s fastest human and the world’s fastest animal is a nicely judged way to publicise the plight of Africa’s threatened wildlife.


Who’s the world’s fastest human being? On two legs, that is, not on wheels or in a spaceship? It’s Usain Bolt of Jamaica, holder of the world and Olympic records for the 100 and 200 metre sprint races. Usain’s 100m record currently stands at 9.58 seconds, and the 200 metres at 19.19 seconds.

That’s a human being. Now which is the fastest animal in the world? That’s the cheetah of course. We’ve all seen film footage of the cheetah with that wonderful long stride, and the flexible spine that helps it to stretch out as it runs after its prey. How fast could a cheetah do 100 metres? Probably in about six seconds. A cheetah can certainly do more than 100kph – some experts say up to 114 – whereas Usain Bolt runs flat out at much less than half that – around 37kph. The cheetah can keep up top speed for a few miles, too, which Usain definitely can’t. But there is still a good connection between Usain Bolt and the cheetah. Here’s the story.

Usain Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter, a record breaker. He came from an ordinary family in Jamaica – his parents keep a grocery store there in a small village. Like a lot of Jamaican children – in fact like a lot of children everywhere – he enjoyed playing cricket and football in the street, but when he went to primary school he started winning races at the school sports. In high school he continued to be a winner. He was a big boy – nearly two metres tall when he was fifteen, and in 2002 everyone noticed him not only because of his size, but because he won his first international event, the 200 metre sprint at the World Junior Championships. In 2004 he was in the Athens Olympics and then in the 2008 Beijing Olympics he won his three Olympic gold medals.

People who are famous and in the news are often asked to help charities by going to events so that the press and TV will give publicity to the work of the charity. So last week, Usain Bolt was asked to go to Kenya, in Africa by an ecological charity called the Zeitz Foundation which is connected to Puma, the sports equipment firm that sponsors him.

Usain was in Kenya, for four days, and during that time he encountered many of Kenya’s wonderful animals. In an interview he describes coming across a bull elephant and being a bit scared.

’It was really scary,’ Bolt said. ‘I thought he wanted to charge at us but all he wanted was for us to back off,’ he says.

Then he met Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga took Usain to an animal orphanage, which looks after baby animals that have lost contact with their parents. The orphanage likes visitors who can afford it to adopt one of the animals. That doesn’t mean they take the animal home, because that wouldn’t be fair or possible. It means they pay some money each year to help the orphanage look after the animals. Of course if it’s a famous person who adopts an animal, then that encourages others to do it, and it also means that the need to care for Kenya’s wildlife gets into the news.

While they were at the orphanage, Prime Minister Odinga cuddled two lion cubs that he’s adopted, and Usain also arranged an adoption. He adopted a baby cheetah that had been abandoned by its mother. It seemed very suitable for the fastest man on earth to adopt the fastest animal. He called the baby cheetah ‘Lightning Bolt’ and arranged to pay money each year that will help not only his cheetah but other animal projects in Kenya.

Maybe lots of people adopt orphan animals in Kenya and in other countries and of course in our own country people really do take in pet dogs and cats that have been abandoned. But when a famous person does it, there’s good publicity for the organization that’s arranging it. That’s one of the good things about being a celebrity isn’t it? You can use your fame to do something good that also encourages other people to do good things. It’s encouraging to see Usain Bolt using his fame in this way and remembering that people will take notice of the things that he does. Sometimes celebrities forget that, don’t you think?

A prayer
Lord, we thank you for the enjoyment we get from sport, and for the inspiration we receive from those who are better at their sport than we are. We thank you for celebrities who use their fame wisely to help others. And we pray for the great continent of Africa, for its people and its rich inheritance of wildlife.

A thought
If you’re given a great skill or talent, it comes with the duty to use it properly in the service of others.


This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh