Even in this strange city, this is a particularly strange moment.

In Beijing's equivalent of the Bluewater shopping centre, Usain Bolt, the 100m world record holder, is holding his final pre-Olympic press conference in a Chinese version of a Caribbean beach bar - alongside diminutive Scottish singer-songwriter Paulo Nutini.

On the wall behind them are four enormous Maori-style masks, brightly painted with coloured swirls. In front, either side of a blue neon catwalk, camera crews from around the globe are herded in like high-tech cattle.

"Unt now," announces the event's German host proudly, "please - zer men who shocked zer verld!"

Paulo Nutini (left) and Usain Bolt

It's hard to say which of the pair on stage looks more uneasy.

Bolt, the blistering new star of world athletics, is staring at the floor suspiciously, his long limbs draped across a red velvet chair and a large gold watch hanging off his left wrist.

Nutini, the poor man's James Morrison, looks deeply confused. His expression says it all: what the hell am I, a chap with one tepidly received album behind me, doing here?

One's heart goes out to the British athletes who just failed to make the GB squad for Beijing. How must it feel knowing that even Paulo Nutini got the Olympic nod ahead of them?

The explanation is simple. In their great wisdom, Bolt's footwear sponsors have decided that the natural partner for the fastest man ever at the launch their new range of Olympic running shoes is a bloke from Paisley who aspires to being David Gray.

Nutini had a song out two years ago called "New Shoes". Bolt will shortly be running in some. See what they did there?

The peculiarity of the situation unsurprisingly seems to unsettle the Jamaican. Asked how happy he is to be running both the 100m and 200m in Beijing, he looks surprised.

"I'm only 80% sure I'll do the 100m," he says. "It's up to my coach. He hasn't told me if I'm doing it yet, so I'm guessing."

"But Usain!" shouts an excited hack. "Your coach told us last weekend that you were definitely doing both!"

"Did he?" says Bolt, startled. "He hasn't told me. I guess I'm doubling up, then."

Paulo, meanwhile, fiddles with his shaggy mop of hair, ignored by the sporting press until a Japanese lady in the crowd throws her hand in the air.

"What his name?" she whispers loudly to a lackey nearby.

"Paulo Nutini," the lackey hisses back.

"Paulo!" beams the woman, smiling toothily at the stage. "What inspire your song 'New Shoes'?"

Nutini coughs. "Yeah. It's about, you know, if it was as easy to solve problems as it is to buy shoes."

There is a heavy silence in the bar. "That's it," says Paulo, quietly.

Emboldened, a Russian journalist at the back of the room waves at Usain. "You want to be a DJ when you quit, yes?" she barks.

"I never said that," says Bolt, looking nonplussed.

"Yes, but I am perhaps reading it somewhere," barks the woman. "So - would you DJ with Paulo?"

Bolt sighs and shifts in his seat. "It could be possible," he says laconically.

"I'm game for anything," chirps up Paulo, brightly.

Usain stares into the distance. "It could be huge for me," he says, deadpan.

To a strobe-storm of camera flashes, Bolt's new spikes are brought to the stage by a beaming flunkey.

To say they are a little flashy is like saying Bolt can run at a decent lick. There's so much gold on display that it's hard to look at them without protective goggles.

The laces are gold. The uppers are gold. The soles are gold. The echoes of Michael Johnson's record-breaking spikes are there for all to see.

After posing for the cameras, Nutini and Bolt stroll off backstage, deep in conversation. It's hard not to wonder what they've found to talk about.

Is Paulo asking for help with his transition off the top bend into the home straight?

Is Usain grilling Paulo about the time he supported KT Tunstall at the Cambridge Corn Exchange?

Sadly, we may never know.

Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 00:42am on 06 Aug 2008, Harpod11 wrote:

    Nice article. Funny!

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  • 2. At 02:58am on 06 Aug 2008, gids10 wrote:

    Thats got to be the strangest commercial decision in the history itself!

    Maybe they were talking about doing a duet at the Corn Exchange after the Olympics are over...;-P

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  • 3. At 07:33am on 06 Aug 2008, lurch1875 wrote:

    what on earth were they smoking when they thought this one up??

    perhaps that's what Paulo was asking him about afterwards

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  • 4. At 08:56am on 06 Aug 2008, Sarah Holt - BBC Sport wrote:

    Um, this comment may well reveal quite what a tedious muso I am BUT I may have an explanation for the Nutini-Bolt match-up.

    Because record labels and artists have to look for other ways to make money now in the climate of falling record sales, the lovely Mr Nutini became one of the first popstrels to sign a sponsorship deal with a brand.

    Paolo signed up with Puma which means he has to do things like make public appearances with super-fast athletes.

    This would all make sense right if it Bolt's shoes were puma, right?

    And now I feel really sad for revealing that knowlege. Enjoy Beijing TF.

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  • 5. At 08:56am on 06 Aug 2008, Foddyfoddy wrote:

    I'm also a Fordyce (Tony, in fact), and live in Tokyo. If you happen to be passing through there on your way home - unlikely, I guess - drop in for a beer or two! I also have a young nephew in England, Tom Fordyce, who (like me) is a mad keen cricketer, and (unlike me) may be bidding to take over your role at some stage in the future. If you can wait 10/15 years, he could save someone a bit of time by taking over your column and maybe mail address as they are without having to change the name . . . .

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  • 6. At 09:02am on 06 Aug 2008, Ian-in-Bangkok wrote:

    Another good one Tom.

    The wonders of sports marketing.

    If only the 1966 World Cup organisers had had such slick publicity.

    Adidas could have got Nancy Sinatra singing "These Boots Were Made for Walking" at Birmingham's Bull Ring, followed by Geoff Hurst answering questions on that dodgy second goal decision by Tofik Bakhramov.

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  • 7. At 09:45am on 06 Aug 2008, Ramilas1 wrote:

    So that's the sort of cutting-edge decision-making that is possible once you've got one of those degrees in Media Studies.

    God (if he exists) Help Us All!!

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  • 8. At 09:49am on 06 Aug 2008, Chad Secksington wrote:

    Paolo Nutini has a sponsorship deal with Puma, seriously?

    I can't be the only one who struggles to believe that anybody's ever gone "Have you got any of those trainers that Paolo Nutini wears?" before stopping off at the barbers to make their hair look like a poorly fitted Jason King wig.

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  • 9. At 09:57am on 06 Aug 2008, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    There's another Tom Fordyce out there? And he wants my job? This is even more unsettling than the mooted Bolt-Nutini soundclash.

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  • 10. At 10:07am on 06 Aug 2008, John B wrote:

    //... a bloke from Paisley who aspires to being David Gray.//

    Spot on. You couldn't be more accurate. Combine that comment with your smog-jog-blog around the town the other day and you've got a nice little portfolio of journalistic output right there.

    All Dirsy appears to do is smoke a few tabs and get a ride on that monstrosity of a wagon round football and rugby tournaments...

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  • 11. At 11:14am on 06 Aug 2008, maveling wrote:

    Sounds like something out of Ricky Gervais's The Office! Great article.

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  • 12. At 11:33am on 06 Aug 2008, Moutarde wrote:

    Where's Ben Dirs? Is he on holiday?

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  • 13. At 12:42pm on 06 Aug 2008, Rangers_Lad wrote:

    Not a fan of Nutini ?

    'poor mans James Morrison' ?

    'Tepidly received album '?

    are you a sports journalist or music expert ?

    Dont want to know your opinion on the lad - you added your own negative personal thoughts into his musical exploits and missed the point of the 'odd couple,' musician and athelete.

    rubbish blog....

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  • 14. At 12:48pm on 06 Aug 2008, Donald Donaldson wrote:

    i want to see these bling boots, how comes there isnt a picture?

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  • 15. At 12:49pm on 06 Aug 2008, camaan wrote:

    Poor man's James Morrison was a bit harsh considering he only brought out about 2 records as well, but still quality article! I loved the picture, especially Usain's look at someone off the shot, thinking "I can't believe you made me do this". The joy of PR people...

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  • 16. At 1:21pm on 06 Aug 2008, Ian_the_chopper wrote:

    I imagine Dirsy is still in a darkened room after the shambles of England's cricket performance at Edgbaston.

    The poor soul no doubt has four, or possibly five, days of torture with the Oval test starting shortly.

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  • 17. At 3:37pm on 06 Aug 2008, Chad Secksington wrote:


    Are you Paolo Nutini's fan club manager or something?

    Surely the point of the blogs is to add a bit of opinion into the dry strictly factual new reporting?

    What would have been a decent blog?

    Paolo Nutini and Usain Bolt did a promotional gig for Puma shoes.

    the end

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  • 18. At 6:20pm on 06 Aug 2008, Tim Fry wrote:

    A better link would've been "Nuts and Bolt"

    Assuming that "Nuts" is Paulo Nutini's nickname...

    I just hope that he doesn't sing Jenny Don't Be Hasty at Miss Meadows before the Womens 800m - she can be as hasty as she likes!

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  • 19. At 3:02pm on 07 Aug 2008, Scientiapotentiaest wrote:

    Have to agree with willstorrie on this one, you clearly don't know who Mr Nutini is and just slate him in this whole article.

    It is indeed a strange duo and appears that Puma need some sort of gimmick with their new shoes rather than just them and the fastest man on the planet.

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  • 20. At 5:41pm on 07 Aug 2008, Jim-bob-jim wrote:

    I also agree with willstorrie, Paulo 1st album was more than tepidly received. He is not a poor mans Morrison, he has only had one album give hime a break. Im sure the interview wasnt his idea. What the heck do you know about music anyway?

    Its a strange paring and I can see why they felt uncomfortble but any interview iv seen with Usian Bolt he comes across as totally confused, and well simple.

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  • 21. At 8:08pm on 07 Aug 2008, Mandricard wrote:

    His music may not be to everyone's taste, but you have to feel sympathy towards him if he's played at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. A more soulless place was never built.

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  • 22. At 01:50am on 08 Aug 2008, jazza0707 wrote:

    Hahaha, the picture says it all, very good.

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  • 23. At 3:14pm on 12 Aug 2008, RebelRasta wrote:

    Big up Usain Bolt. Lightening will strike this weekend and the whole world will see it. Bim!

    Bonita Jamaica

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  • 24. At 4:31pm on 13 Aug 2008, theosportfan wrote:

    Mr Fordyce - if Paulo is the poor man's Jim Morrison are you the poor man's Hugh McIivanney?

    Also I fail to see what Paulo being from Paisley has to do with it. If he was from London would you have mentioned this?

    What could have been a good article about branding and commercial interests in sport has been spoiled by your puerile jibes.

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  • 25. At 08:46am on 16 Aug 2008, dermiebutt wrote:

    Theosportfan et al, get real, get humerous, chill....

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  • 26. At 8:06pm on 22 Mar 2009, camaan wrote:

    Who's laughing now?!

    It's official: Give our athletes a 5 minute press conference with Paolo Nutini and 3 golds a piece are on the way!

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  • 27. At 1:38pm on 20 Jun 2009, MariaFalouri wrote:

    lol - it's funny but what if Bolt is wearing a gold watch ...? Cmon :P

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