Hardly time to pause as track and field rules
ATHLETICS:Track and field will always be the heart and soul of the Olympic Games, as London clearly demonstrated, writes IAN O'RIORDAN
When Johnny’s on the balcony, mixing up the medicine, and I’m in the hallway, sleeping off the deadlines, after the first night, first day, inside the Olympic Stadium, when the echoes come thundering back, the morning after, in loud surround sound, then you know this is it, this is now, this is Games on.
It’s when all 80,000 seats are full, never once emptied, at 10 in the morning, more again lingering outside, for heats and qualifiers that rarely ripple the Olympic surface, but has the whole place splashing, heroically, within moments, when Jessica Ennis, lining up for the 100 metres hurdles, the first of seven events in the heptathlon, goes on the B of the Bang, runs 12.54 seconds, a British record, and every big buck spent on those billboards increases five-fold, same as those suddenly precious tickets for every session that follows.
When that Friday evening, the first gold medal is won, by the baby-faced assassin, Tirunesh Dibaba, who shoots them all dead over 25 laps, just like she did in Beijing, with a finishing surge that is royalty in motion, those warning signs are flashing, that the Ethiopians are back, that even the Kenyans know it, and that Mo Farah might have the crowd on his side, but odds as long as his stride against him, that even with his will, there is surely no way he can beat the Africans next time they run 10,000m.
It’s only when the stunningly sublime, and sweetly ridiculous, combine, his African nature and British nurture too, does Farah somehow win it on Saturday night, with as much unimaginable closing speed that anyone has ever seen, including Kenenisa Bekele, run into fourth, out of even the medals, the Ethiopian Emperor coldly dethroned, as Farah then finds himself running into Ennis, still completing her victory salute after running away with the heptathlon’s last event too, the 800m, both she and he running into Greg Rutherford, an unknown ginger-haired lad from Milton Keynes, who had just leapt 8.31m to ignite the greatest 45 minutes in the long, long history of British track and field.
When on the rainy Sunday morning, coming down, on the DLR, after the finish of the women’s marathon, where Kenya’s bad timing continued, and Tiki Gelana sent the pride of Africa back to Ethiopia, it’s suddenly the headline act already, in just a few short hours it all comes down to less than 10 seconds, and whether or not the Lightning Bolt can once again juggle his great clowning act with his tight-rope walking brilliance.
Then when the clock stops that night, at 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, only Usain Bolt himself ever running faster, there he is again, bending into his signature pose, even Yohan Blake wondering how he did that, still the fastest man on earth, and now unquestionably The Legend he claims to be, so that Con Houlihan was right all along, that it really is as simple as running away from a bull.