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Referee mishap at Nitro Series leaves Bolt fuming

The second instalment of the Nitro Athletics Series ended in farce in Melbourne yesterday, with a referee error that initially awarded the Australia team top ranking for the night by mistake, leaving headline athlete Usain Bolt, of Jamaica, fuming.

In the final 4x100 metres relay event at Lakeside Stadium, Australia were disqualified for a botched baton change and Bolt’s ‘All-Stars’ won the race comfortably. But the hosts were erroneously awarded points that left them at the top of the table at the expense of Bolt’s team.

The mishap was eventually corrected, awarding the night to the ‘All-Stars’, but not before the live broadcast of the event had finished and most of the crowd of 6,500 spectators, including IAAF president Sebastian Coe, had filed out of the stadium.

Bolt, who ran the third leg of the relay, was incredulous.

“(It’s) because it’s Australia. It’s biased!” Bolt yelled at trackside officials before the result was corrected.

“I’m going to protest that – it makes no sense. I don’t know what happened. I thought if you were DQ’d you’d be out for sure or even lose some points but you can’t not lose any points,” he said.

Organisers said the error lay with an Australian referee.

Bolt was paid a seven-figure appearance fee to commit to all three meetings of the series in Melbourne this month and given a stake in the company running the event.

High TV ratings

The series’ opening night last Saturday was hailed as a success, with solid television ratings and a decent crowd. But the organisers may hope to move on quickly from the second.

The scoring problem followed confusion during the women’s mile elimination race, which saw one of the runners leave the track in error, wrongly believing she had been knocked out for crossing the line last behind the other runners.

Adding to the confusion, New Zealander Camille Buscomb, running for the ‘All-Stars’, ran back on to the track to re-join the race which was won by Australia’s Heidi See.

Bolt, in his farewell season, has run only in the relays in the opening two nights of the series, but he held out the possibility he might run in the 150 metres sprint in the series finale tomorrow.

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