World Athletics Championships, Daegu, Saturday 3rd September 2011.

I like watching athletics meetings as there always seems to be something going on. It’s usually organised so that the races have very little time between them and the field events tend to fill in any gaps that do occur. When my son was small we would often nip up to Gateshead Stadium, usually to watch one of his heroes, Linford Christie. We tend not to bother these days, partly because I’m not in the UK very often, but mainly because Linford must be about sixty these days and is probably supplementing his diet with Werthers Originals rather than anabolic steroids.

When I saw that the World Athletics Championships were coming to Daegu I thought that it might be difficult to get to see it. Fortunately they didn’t follow the shambolic approach opted by London for the Olympic tickets where the system encouraged people to apply for thousands of pounds worth of tickets in a lottery, resulting in some people getting, well, thousands of pounds worth of tickets whilst the majority failed to get any.

Seb Coe is the figurehead for London 2012 and so I’ll blame him for it. I used to like him as a runner. Not as much as Ovett obviously, but he did have a burst of acceleration similar to that of Ekbalco or Dancing Brave and a running style where his feet barely seemed to touch the track. I remember listening to his 800m Moscow defeat on a radio whilst sat at the top of some hill in the Lake District and then making sure that a few days later we got down to Keswick town centre in time to watch him take the 1500m gold on the tellies in the Rediffusion shop window.

Cheer up Seb, if you roll about enough on a judo mat with Billy Hague you might get a peerage.

Afterwards in his new role as a Tory politician, I never really had any time for him. I love the story about him being refused entry to a hospitality lounge at a Chelsea game though. I suspect it might be made up but I’ll tell it anyway. Apparently he was told that although his name appeared on the guest list he would have to walk around to the ticket office on the other side of the ground to collect a pass. When he kicked up a fuss and pointed out “But I’m Seb Coe, surely you must recognise me?“ the bloke that he was dealing with replied “Well, it shouldn’t take you long to get there then, should it?”

Luckily Lord Coe and his team weren’t heading up the Daegu ticketing operation and so a few months earlier I’d simply logged on to the World Athletics website and bought tickets for each of the last two days. The Saturday tickets were fifty quid each and I chose seats on the bend of the 200m so that we would hopefully get a decent view of Usain Bolt pulling away from the field. For the Sunday we got twenty-odd quid tickets next to the sand pit in the hope of seeing Philip Idowu take triple-jump gold. It couldn’t have been easier, select your seats, pay by credit card and collect the tickets from a box office near the main entrance. Hopefully without being then directed to the other side of the stadium as it would take me considerably longer than a former Olympic athlete.

Jen and I were staying in nearby Gumi and we’d hiked up a big hill in the Geumosan Provincial Park that morning. It’s only half an hour away by train though and despite me falling asleep, waking up in a panic and getting us off the train at Daegu rather than Dongdaegu, our taxi still got to the stadium in plenty of time.

It was fairly busy, but with half a dozen ticket offices we had our tickets in a few minutes. We were also given wristbands because it turned out that the fifty quid tickets we had for that day also entitled us to free food and drink. Nice. After a cursory search, we were inside and soon into the hospitality tent. I couldn’t fault it at all, plenty of food and a couple of fridges full of free beer. My sort of event really.

That's very kind of you.

The stadium itself was pretty impressive too. A lot of the third tier seats had been blanked off to allow the installation of a third big screen and to give the media more camera positions. We were in the bottom tier, but the slope was good enough to give us a decent view. We were at the end where the women’s high jump final was taking place and with all due respect to the male javelin throwers at the other end, we were at the right end of the arena.

Most of the high jumpers could have been catwalk models, although because of the nature of the event they tend not to wear much in the way of  haute couture. Gradually most of them were eliminated until we were down to a battle for the gold between Anna Chicherova and Blanka Vlašić. I usually just root for the best looking one, but in this event I was spoilt for choice. Eventually they both failed to clear 2.05m and the Russian took the gold on the countback.

Blanka Vlašić

After watching the Kenyans dominate the men’s 1500m it was time for the women’s 100m hurdles where Tiffany Porter came fourth for Great Britain. She used to run for America but competition for places is a bit stronger over there so now she runs for us. She demonstrated how quickly she has adapted to the ways of her new country though by clipping the final hurdle and graciously allowing someone else to take home a medal instead.

In between all that we had a couple of exhibition wheelchair races, included I suspect so that South Korea could have some athletes taking part on a finals day. It backfired in the first race though, the women’s 800m. The Korean competitor was so far behind the rest of the field, you’d think she was weighed down with her shopping. She managed to avoid being lapped but by the time she had completed her race to sympathetic applause the rest of the competitors were showered, changed and down the pub.

With two Koreans in the men’s 400m race I hoped that the shorter distance would provide less opportunity for embarrassment. I needn’t have worried though as Yung Byung Hoon and Jung Dong Ho took silver and bronze respectively.

After the Men's 400m wheelchair race.

The highlight of the evening was kept back as the final event. Usain Bolt had ballsed up the 100m final a week earlier by jumping the gun and tonight was his chance to make up for it in the 200m final. I couldn’t really see another mishap as he’s that much better than the opposition in the longer sprint that he has time to wait for the gun, have a look around, re-tie his shoelaces and still get to the finishing line first.

And after putting on a bit of a pre-race show for the crowd, that’s what he did. Possibly even with a double knot in the laces to play it safe. By the time he reached us at the bend the race was won and he accelerated away up the home straight.

It's all over now.

His lap of honour must have taken ten minutes to complete, a bit of a contrast to the 19.4 seconds that he’d needed in the 200m. He seemed a popular fella and I don’t think the crowd could have enjoyed it any more had he actually been Korean.

I think he enjoyed himself.

One downside was getting away afterwards. As we’d arrived by taxi we weren’t familiar with the way to the subway and the shuttle buses seemed badly organised. The police were preventing taxis from picking people up so we had a long walk before we could eventually get one to stop. Fortunately he was as good at his job as Usain Bolt is at his and after some manic driving we were at the station in time to catch the train back to Gumi.

7 Responses to “World Athletics Championships, Daegu, Saturday 3rd September 2011.”

  1. Paul Says:

    like you style, ‘oh look Jen right by the high jump girls, how did that happen?’

    nice picture too

  2. onthetrailofthelionking Says:

    No more than coincidence. Although it’s uncanny how often stuff like that happens.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I wondered if you were there. Didn’t spot you in the crowd though.

    What’s your thoughts on immediate disqualification if you false start? Doesn’t seem fair on the athletes or the public. They must be so wound up for say the 100m final that anything could set them off.

    One warning and then you’re out, seems fairer

  4. Anonymous Says:

    And before you get all smart aleky on me…I of course meant that the athletes are wound up. I didn’t mean the public starting a fight…though I suspect that if the tension did start a ruckus in the crowd, then it might very well be enough to cause a false start.

    I liked the shushing over the tannoy, by the way.

    And yes, always support the best looking high jumper. I adopted that tactic for the women sprinters as well – much to Claire’s disgust.

  5. onthetrailofthelionking Says:

    I think it seems very unfair Andy, although I can see why it’s done. I think the thing I like least about it is that it changed the rules, making a difference between times achieved when you had the luxury of getting away quickly and the times that you could achieve now when you have to definitely wait for the gun.

    I liked the shushing too. I’d be happy to see it adopted in most public places.

    It’s as good a way as any of determining which athlete to support. Similar, I suppose, to backing horses on the merits of the stablegirl’s tits who was leading it around the parade ring.

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