World Athletics Championships, Daegu, Sunday 4th September 2011.

After Usain Bolt’s triumph the previous night Jen and I were back on the train from Gumi to Daegu the next morning for a bit more athletics. We managed to dump our backpacks in the lockers at the subway station and with the first event not starting until just after six we had plenty of time to have a wander around the town.

First stop was the zoo. I’m always happy to have a look around these places. I don’t even bother to take a small kid nowadays and pretend it’s for their pleasure rather than mine. Daegu Zoo is free to get into, which must be great for the local families who can pop along every weekend if they fancy, but it does mean that their animal buying budget isn’t quite what it could be.

They had a decent variety of animals, it’s just that most of them looked like either the runt of their litter or else not far from death’s door. None of them seemed to be prime specimens. The badger looked faker than a ten quid Louis Vuitton handbag and the tiger may very well have been dead.

The vultures were circling.

The elephant looked to be in reasonable nick, although it did have half a tusk missing which probably affected its value. It was as if the place was populated with other zoo’s cast-offs.

It didn't look too bad from its good side.

One of the benefits of zoos being a bit strapped for cash though is that they don’t mind you feeding the animals. It saves them a few quid and makes it all a bit more interesting for the people wandering around. Everybody wins really. Apart, I suppose, from the psychotic bear that was getting Cheesy Wotsits bounced off its skull.

You can see one on the floor.

After the zoo we had a walk around a market. I quite enjoy this sort of thing too, depending I suppose on the amount of animals, dead or alive. I’m not really one for shopping but if there are a few rabbits or dogs to have a gawp at then I’m happy enough. This place had plenty of livestock, with kittens, puppies, rabbits and chickens competing for space. I’m not sure which, if any, of them were intended to be pets rather than lunch but they looked in better condition than most of the inhabitants of the zoo.

You weren't allowed to feed these ones corn-based snacks.

With a couple of hours to go before the athletics started we got the subway to Daegu Grand Park. I wanted to be there early as our section was free seating and I was keen to be as close to the sandpit for the triple jump final as possible. It took about half an hour to walk from the station to the stadium and once there we were quickly inside.

Daegu Stadium

We were able to sneak across a few blocks from our section near to the start of the run up to somewhere much closer to where the jumpers would be landing. I did feel a little guilty initially but after seeing the way that so many of the Koreans behaved I soon put it out of my mind. The event was a sell-out officially. That doesn’t mean much over here where attendances are often announced in excess of the stadium capacity despite the place being no more than half-full. This time though it was probably correct. However, so many of the people coming in seemed to be saving seats for non-existent friends or using them to balance their bags or food on. The stewards were trying to get people to shift along, but were pretty much being ignored. The problem was compounded by a lot of athletes and coaches who had  ‘access all areas’ passes trying to find somewhere to sit. I was pleased that we had got there early or else we’d have been stood at the back.

There was still more than an hour to go before the first event.

The events started off with the women’s hammer throw. We were at the wrong end of the stadium for this one but quite handily placed to see some of the better throws land. Next we got the women’s 4x100m relay semi-finals where the Chinese team managed to get disqualified for a false-start. How rubbish must that have been for the runners on the later legs? If they hadn’t ran in the individual event then their Championship will have consisted of limbering up on the track and then being told to clear off without even getting to run.

The triple jump got underway and Phillip Idowu made a good start, leading through the first three rounds. There were a lot of coaches sat near us and it was amusing to watch them being ignored by their athletes when they were trying to give them a bollocking. Every now and then one of the jumpers would make the mistake of catching his coaches eye and he’d have to come over and be reminded of how to leap into a sandpit.

"Just jump further Sonny"

Next up we got Mo Farah in the 5000m. We’d watched him just miss out on gold a week earlier on the taxi driver’s sat nav coming back from the airport. This time though he went one better with a well-paced run that saw him drop to the back of the pack early on and then take it on in the last couple of laps.

It was an exceptionally slow race, the winning time of 13:23 being forty-six seconds off the world record of 12:37. Not that it matters in a championship race. I was amazed when I saw that world record time, by the way. One of the best athletic events that I’ve been to was the Bislett Games in Olso in 1985. We travelled up on the train from somewhere in Italy mainly to watch Steve Cram try to break the world mile record. He did, making the forty-eight hour journey and the subsequent night sleeping rough more than worthwhile. As a bit of a bonus we also saw Said Aouita lower the 5,000m mark to a fraction over thirteen minutes. The current record of 12:37 shows just how much athletes have improved at that distance over the last quarter of a century.

Even better, he did his lap of honour with our MFC union jack.

In round four of the triple jump, Idowu’s luck ran out as a lifetime best from the American, Christian Taylor, relegated him to second place. He improved upon his own mark with another consistent leap but it wasn’t enough and he had to settle for silver.

We needed to get away to catch our train and so would have to miss the closing relays. That meant that our final event was the women’s 800m. There has been a fair bit of controversy over some of the South African athletes competing at these games, specifically Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya. Whilst Pistorius would on the face of it seem to be disadvantaged in the 400m by being short of a couple of  legs, the fact that his carbon fibre replacements don’t get tired like legs do and uniquely allow him to accelerate in the closing stages when everyone else is slowing down makes me a little uneasy.

Likewise, Semenya running in the women’s races also seems a bit unfair. I appreciate that she’s grown her hair to try to look more feminine, but she’d have been better off  getting rid of the biceps and the bulge in the front of her shorts. If she is going to compete in the women’s races I think the IAAF should insist that she runs with her arms by her sides, palm facing downwards. It’s the only way to dispel the doubts.

Anyway, it looked like her mind wandered as she hit the home straight, perhaps because she was thinking ahead as to what she was going to cook her fella for his tea and she was overtaken by the Russian girl

Savinova takes the gold.

That was it for us and we headed out to find the area around the stadium crowded by people waiting for the closing fireworks. After the chaos of the previous evening we were able to hop into a taxi straightaway and were at Dongdaegu station in sufficient time to watch the relays on the telly before catching our train back to Seoul.

In a country that often gets a bit of flak for its organisation of sporting events, I thought the Championships went very well on the days that we were there. The place was full, the beer was free and we had minimal hassle. Just like it should be.

2 Responses to “World Athletics Championships, Daegu, Sunday 4th September 2011.”

  1. World Athletic Championships 2011 but mainly a Hike and a Trip to the Zoo | jenniferteacher2pointø Says:

    […] you want to read about the sporting events we witnessed, you can check out Craig’s version of events. It was fun, but it wasn’t the highlight of my weekend. That would have been […]

  2. Games with animals Says:

    Very descriptive article, I loved that a lot. Will there be a pasrt 2?

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