Bolt, Ennis and maybe 'the Mobot': It'll be London 2012 all over again
The London Anniversary Games confirms a stellar line-up including the three Team GB gold medalists from 'Super Saturday'
Wednesday 17 April 2013
There is not much to thank George Osborne for but it is worth a sporting nod in the Chancellor's direction for granting the tax break that opened the door for Usain Bolt to come back to London. Bolt has been confirmed as the lead act in a stellar cast assembled for July's Anniversary Games in the Olympic stadium where he collected three gold medals last summer.
Bolt heads a list of 10 London gold medallists who will compete over two days - there is the serious business of a Diamond League meeting amid the shiny gathering of Olympic bling - which will allow expected sell-out crowds of 65,000 to sun themselves one last time in the fading glow of London 2012.
There is talk around the corridors of British Athletics that it is time to look forward, to this summer's world championships, Rio 2016 and the 2017 worlds coming back to the by-then (hopefully) refurbished Olympic Stadium, but the persuasive pitch for the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games is, as chairman Ed Warner puts it, a glance in the rear-view mirror. The clue is in the title.
Bolt will collect an appearance fee of around $600,000 for his two appearances - totalling some 20 seconds of track time - in his first Diamond League appearance in this country for four years. If it had not been for the one-off tax exemption granted Bolt and other international athletes in this year's budget then the fastest man the world has seen would not be returning to the capital.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to the UK, especially with it being a year since winning three gold medals in the Olympic Stadium," said Bolt. "The crowd were amazing at the Games. I haven't competed at the London Diamond League since 2009 but it has always been a great meet with lots of Jamaican support - it almost feels like running at home."
There will be 10 individual Olympic champions competing in 27 events over Friday evening and Saturday afternoon of 26 and 27 July - it is followed by a Paralympic competition on the Sunday. The full roll call includes 29 London medallists, 12 champions (there are a couple of relay winners) and four world-record holders. Bolt will run in the 100m, lining up against Kim Collins, a controversial absentee from London 2012, and as part of a Jamaican quartet in the 4x100m.
Collins was sent home before running in London for spending a night with his wife rather than in the Olympic Village - St Kitts and Nevis officials deemed that a breach of discipline. "My story from London was well documented, and to have the opportunity a year on to run in the stadium is something that I'm really grateful for," said Collins, a former world champion.
The most arresting race though may well prove the women's 100m hurdles where Jessica Ennis will challenge Sally Pearson, Australia's world and Olympic champion who has dominated the event in recent years. Ennis won the heptathlon hurdles in a time quick enough to take gold in the 2008 Olympics but faces tough competition to even make the top three with Kellie Wells, third in the Olympics, and Danielle Carruthers, silver medallist at the last worlds, also in the field.
It will be the last major event before August's world championships in Moscow, as well as the last event in the stadium before it undergoes its full £160m refurbishment. British Athletics will be amply satisfied with the high-class field it has assembled for the last hurrah 99 days from tomorrow.
Two of the men's track events, the 110m hurdles and the 400m, will feature the 1-2-3 from the Olympics. Kirani James produced one of the most impressive runs of last August to claim the 400m to make him a world and Olympic champion while still in his teens. He has the clear potential to become one of the greats of the track.
One of the great track rivalries of recent years will be renewed in the women's 400m with Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross taking on her predecessor, and runner-up in London, Christine Ohuruogu. The men's long jump features an Anglo-Aussie battle with Greg Rutherford, the surprise British winner on Super Saturday, up against silver medallist Mitchell Watt, while the line-up for the men's pole vault also includes the Olympic 1-2-3.
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