How should the two fastest men in the history of the world arrive for their big pre-Olympic news conference in London?

Not for Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell the prosaic charms of North Greenwich tube station, a ride on a bendy bus or a simple old-fashioned black cab.

Neither, since it's hard to get an agent to agree to such a thing with the biggest race of their athletes' lives three weeks away, did they abseil through the roof of the O2 Arena.

Instead, like Daniel Craig at the premiere of Casino Royale, they roared into view up the Thames on a speedboat.

Bolt and Powell arrive in style on the River Thames

As a bystander one was immediately filled with foreboding.

Two of athletics' biggest stars, zipping about on a small, fast boat in the middle of one of Europe's busiest waterways?

It wasn't just the stench of salt and dead fish or murky brown colour of the river that gave cause for concern.

What if Bolt or Powell were prone to seasickness, and rocked up in front of the world's media with chunk-laden vomit smeared all over their chops?

What if one slipped as he stepped up gingerly from bobbing boat to jetty and fell back with a scream, clutching a torn hamstring?

What if the capricious Thames tide left their craft unable to reach the quay, forcing them to wade across the stinking mud-flats as journalists watched on aghast?

Suddenly you began to suspect that Tyson Gay knew what he was doing when he pulled out of Friday's Aviva London Grand Prix, and hence Thursday's photo opportunity.

Who's to say that he wouldn't have received a little shove from one of his Jamaican rivals for 100m gold and gone man overboard when no-one was looking?

As it was, the main problem came when another launch pulled up to the jetty before the main boat had swung into view.

Panicked at the thought of missing their big shot, photographers swarmed all over the craft, and in particular a large black man at the prow.

"Which athlete are you?" yelled one white-haired snapper. "Erm... I'm not an athlete," replied the chap, to general embarrassment.

When HMS Sprint did come cruising past, a large green, yellow and black Jamaican flag fluttering proudly at the stern, Bolt looked the more comfortable of the two superstars on board.

Like a monarch greeting his subjects he essayed a regal wave, while the less relaxed-looking Powell held on to the gunwale with the wariness of a man born to go fast on land rather than water.

The irony is that neither athlete is prone to the sort of hubris that their entrance would lead you to expect.

Maurice Greene - now he would have loved such a stunt. Greene press conferences were one long spectacular boast from start to finish, full of promises of world records smashed and the flashing of tattoos like the G.O.A.T. he had spelt out on his arm (Greatest Of All Time, if you hadn't guessed).

Bolt and Powell, by contrast, are softly spoken, almost shy. You could be speaking to an IT helpdesk, they are so downbeat.

"I don't really think how fast I can run - I just go out there and compete," Bolt says later, slightly apologetically.

It's enough to make Greene weep with despair.

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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