IAAFWC 2009 Track in Berlin, Germany
BERLIN - After collecting my media credential this afternoon, I walked
over to Stadio Olympico to look around there less than 18 hours before the
start of the IAAF World Championship Track and Field Meet.
Workers were still doing their thing. For a coach who struggles at times
to put on high school meets, it made me feel good to see that not
everything was in place, and that there were still dozens of people
running around to get things right. The jump pits were in the middle of
the pole vault runway, and the pole vault pits and jump box were nowhere
to be seen. The protective screen wasn't on the hammer cage yet.
But I have faith in the German organizational capabilities; no doubt all
will be in order by tomorrow at 10 am local time.
The Olympic Stadium itself is amazing. A massive, gray concrete structure,
it was the site of the 1936 Olympics where Jesse Owens famously won four
gold medals and made Hitler's Aryan superiority stand look ridiculous.
But once you get inside the stadium, you don't see much that reminds you
of 1936. A partial glass and steel roof extends over the spectators. The
bright blue track and trendy pale green infield look sensational. Three
huge video screens are placed around the stadium, and the VIP area was
highlighted with large, potted plants.
The press area was dotted with screens and Ethernet connections. I sat
down to take a look at the "Epson Press Information Program" that was on
the touch screens and found everything was right there. One touch and you
get the all-time best list for an event, another and you get live results.
Pretty cool stuff.
As is usually the case on the first weekend of major championship meets,
the focus Saturday and Sunday will be on the men's 100 meters. This time
we have the clash of titans, with the colorful Usain Bolt, who captured
the world's attention in Beijing, back to do battle with the 2007 champion
Tyson Gay, who has overcome a chronic hamstring injury to post some very
fast times so far this year. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that
Bolt is untouchable.
Tomorrow the sprinters will run the first and second rounds, with 12 heats
scheduled in the first round. Bolt will run in heat 9 and Gay in heat 11.
There are sure to be fireworks right from the start.
In contrast, there are only 6 heats of the women's 400 meters scheduled.
It was very interesting to see that Claudia Yemelia of Bahrain, with a
personal best of 55.79, drew a better lane than Sanya Richards, the
odds-on favorite who has run 48.70. In this qualifiying heat, Sanya will
be in lane 7, while Claudia, the slowest entrant, gets the best lane - the
5th. I don't think it will help her. Sanya will still run a lot faster.
One major bit of news in the women's 10,000 meters. Tirunesh Dibaba, the
Olympic 5,000 meter champion and one of the favorites in the 10K here, has
withdrawn due to injury. She is still hoping to be back for the 5,000
later in the week. Her withdrawal may provide a brighter glimmer of hope
for Shalane Flanagan and Amy Begley, the Americans who hope to build on
the breakthrough race of Shalane's bronze medal showing at Beijing.
It all gets started tomorrow.