Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive -- again. The two-time gold medal winner ran the 100 meters in a new Olympic record time of just 9.63 seconds. Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the fastest woman alive -- again -- she defended her title, running the 100-meter in 10.75 seconds. And then there is Oscar Pistorius, known as the fastest man on no legs -- he runs with Össur's Flex-Foot, a uniquely designed prosthetic foot that features proprietary carbon technology to efficiently store and release energy. He is very fast, and gives a nod to the cheetah by naming his curved prosthesis "cheetah blades."
We love the Olympics. We love watching athletes give it everything. Fast isn't fast enough unless he/she is THE fastest. And then they win gold. It's not just track and field. We care about who is the fastest at swimming the butterfly -- that's Michael Phelps in 51.21 seconds and Dana Vollmer, swimming at 55.98. Speed counts in beach volleyball for sure -- who can get to the ball and get it over the net. We are fascinated by speed.
The cheetah has always held the gold for speed -- the fastest land animal is capable of running at 60 miles per hour in a life and death sprint. Sometimes the cheetah wins, and sometimes the antelope wins, but the cheetah is always THE fastest. And talk about gold - this beautiful animal is covered in a golden coat with black dots, and racing stripes on its face -- black tear lines that are thought to help deflect the sun as the cheetah sprints after an antelope, looking for sustenance instead of mere glory.
Corporations are proud to announce that they are sponsors of the Olympic games. VISA, Samsung, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Omega and P & G and other companies have built multi-channel, international marketing efforts around their sponsorship of the games. Companies like Nike, Adidas and Puma provide the uniforms of the fastest athletes in the world, prominently displaying their logos and paying them handsomely, and this is a win-win for both the companies and the athletes.
Cheetahs, too, are featured in ads all the time -- the very image of a cheetah sprinting brings to mind one thing -- fast. Not just fast, but THE FASTEST.
With loss of habitat and threats from humans, the cheetah is running its most important race -- the race for survival in the wild. Cheetahs are an endangered species whose population has plummeted by 90 percent in the last century. That population could rapidly decline even further before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
The racing cheetah, at one point in its stride with no feet on the ground, literally flies as it runs. But it may not be fast enough. By the 2020 Olympiad, no matter where the summer games are held -- be it Istanbul, Tokyo, Madrid, Baku or Doha -- the cheetah could already be extinct. The tragedy seeing one of the most iconic species perish from the earth aside, the effect of losing this top predator would ripple through the ecosystem in which it lives, upsetting the balance between predator and prey.
It has been my life's work to prevent such a devastating loss. Through research and hard work, Cheetah Conservation Fund has created programs that are effective, that provide win-win solutions for both the cheetahs and the people sharing their land with them. Please visit Cheetah Conservation Fund's site to learn about our programs like Future Farmers of Africa, Livestock Guard Dogs, and Bushblok habitat restoration.
We have to act fast. I invite all of those corporate sponsors who love to honor the world's greatest athletes to extend themselves to help a truly gifted athlete -- the cheetah. There is no athlete competing in the 2012 Olympiad who can match the cheetah's ability to accelerate from zero to 40 mph in three strides, reaching a full speed of 70 mph in seconds. Help Cheetah Conservation Fund's efforts to save the fastest animal on earth, and assure that future generations of sports fans and others who admire speed and grace can continue to enjoy such an important icon. Because if the cheetah loses its race for survival, the whole world loses too.
Cheetah Conservation Fund can be reached at our offices in Alexandria, Virginia, or via our website: www.cheetah.org. Marketing managers are especially encouraged to give us a call: US Toll Free: +1-866-909-3399 - Fax: +1 206-338-2161
Follow Dr. Laurie Marker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chewbaaka