I love athletics. As children we would watch the world championships and the Olympics with Coe, Ovett and Cram flying the flag. Ashamed as I am to say, I supported Coe, my dad Ovett and my brother John, Cram. So when John bought tickets for the Rome Athletics Gala it was like being five again.
Usain Bolt was in Rome for the third year running. How could we resist? I love Usain Bolt. He has the wonderful arrogance of true champion. I’d never been to the Olympic Stadium before and I was impressed. On a beautiful sunny evening we had seats just by the finish line.
|Simes in the sunshine with Olympian mosaics.|
But then the arguing started. No-one understood the seating plans, no-one had the right seats, everyone was enjoying arguing about it incredibly loudly and being suitably righteous. Except with us. No-one bothered the stranieri. Whether because we were obviously right, or because they thought there was no point or no fun arguing with us, I don’t know. After an hour of shouting, gestures, pointing and stand-offs, everyone seemed to have found a seat and the real event could begin.
|Lovely Colin and Jonathan commentating for the BBC|
The stadium was almost full (hence the arguing). Everything of course was going on at once, but where to look? The high jump, the pole vault, the triple jump, the 10,000m all happening at the same time – how the athletes focus is a mystery to me.
One of the few Brits performing was hurdler Dai Greene (coming back after injury and his first race since the London Oympics) I mention it here as his name is strange enough in English, but in Italian translates as Come on! Green. Dai being pronounced as the English die, which is very strange hearing the children at school shouting “Dai Sofia!” across the playground.
Apart from two very famous Italians (Daniele Greco in the triple jump and Alessia Trost in the high jump), the main attraction was of course Mr Usain Bolt who emerged late into the programme. The entire stadium was on its feet, clapping, cheering and trying to get a better look. Just under 10 seconds of action and the disappointment was palpable. He lost! For only the 5th time ever at 100m! And I was there to witness it.
|Reluctantly cheering the winner|
Where were the famous legs that leave everyone else standing at 70m? But he’s a legend surely? After the race, Bolt explained: “The fact I got a perfect start threw me off. After five steps in I stumbled. I have to do more strength work, I guess. My legs did not feel the energy. You learn more from losing. You can’t win every race in your career. The season is still very early. I am not surprised. I have time – I’m not worried.”
Still a legend, still amazing to see in the flesh, he still has the star quality. I’ll post a photo when my brother sends it to me. Especially the pre-race pope-mobile style lap of the track. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.