Triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, the world's fastest ever man, will be the star attraction at the Great CityGames Manchester, which will form part of a spectacular weekend of sprinting and distance running on this English city's streets in May.
The 22-year-old Jamaican superstar will compete on European soil for the first time this year before tackling some Grand Prix races on the IAAF World Athletics Tour circuit in June and July in his build up to the following month's World Championships in Berlin.
Now "Lightning Bolt" whose breathtaking performances in the Bird's Nest stadium will forever remain legendary sporting moments, is set to take to the streets of Manchester on the afternoon of Sunday 17 May.
Bolt, winner of his first 100m race last weekend in an impressive wind assisted 9.93 seconds without having done any real speed work - see 'Related Content' under photograph to the right - will contest an innovative 150 metres race on a specially constructed tartan track in the city centre.
“I am very excited to compete for my first time in Manchester, my first time in a 150m race and my first time in a street race outside the stadium," said Bolt, a Manchester United football supporter.
"I love competing in the UK – it is like my second home as I usually stay in London during the European racing season. When I heard about the idea I thought it would be great fun and something new and exciting."
Bolt, very eager to sample the atmosphere of racing away from the track, added: "Hopefully this event will be the start of many more similar events all over the world and inspire kids to take up athletics.”
"The IAAF World Championships in August is my goal for 2009 but I am looking forward to Manchester and my first European race of the season."
The Red Devils fan, added: “I am also looking forward to going to Old Trafford to support my team. I've wanted to come to a match for a long time and am delighted to get the opportunity.”
His presence is another notable sporting coup for the sports mad city as earlier in the day Ethiopia's World marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie will be bidding to regain his Bupa Great Manchester Run title in a record field of 33,000 runners over 10 kilometres - see 'Related Content' under photograph to the right.
The BUPA Great Manchester Run is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
"Having the two fastest men on the planet competing on the streets of Manchester on the same day is an incredibly exciting prospect," said David Hart, communications director of event organisers Nova International.
Hart believes having staged a successful series of sprint races on Newcastle-Gateshead quayside last autumn, Bolt's presence will bolster Nova's plans to expand the concept of taking athletics to the streets.
"In the past by definition, track and field athletics has taken place in a stadium or an indoor arena," added Hart. "The feedback from Newcastle-Gateshead where we experimented with the 100 metres sprints, told us that spectators were thrilled at being so close to world class athletes they normally can only see from a distance in a stadium environment.
"I'm sure in Manchester the atmosphere will be even more electric and remember not only Bolt will be competing but some top British sprinters and overseas stars who are already looking towards the 2012 London Olympic Games.”
“Hopefully it will also provide an inspiration to spectators and particularly for youngsters who may be inspired to take up athletics as a career."
Dave Martin – PA International - for the IAAF