Gothenburg, 2006. The mere mention of the place and the year is sufficient to send a nerve-freezing shiver down the spine. The European Championships held there in the Ullevi Stadium four years ago added up to one chilling nadir in the long, proud history of British athletics.
The week started disastrously, with the news that Christine Ohuruogu had been suspended after missing three drug tests. It continued in a downward direction, ending with Darren Campbell pointedly refusing to acknowledge the reinstated doping offender Dwain Chambers on the medal rostrum after both sprinters had run in the men's 4 x 100 metres relay team that claimed the only British victory of the championships.
God save our graceless team. And God help them too. For the first time in the history of the championships, which date back to 1934, Britain failed to produce a single individual gold medal winner.
Four years on, there are hopes of the British team not just exorcising the ghost of Gothenburg but even threatening to scale new heights at the 2010 championships, to be contested in the 1992 Olympic Stadium on Montjuic hill, overlooking Barcelona, from tomorrow through to Sunday. There has been talk of matching the record haul of British golds – nine, which was achieved in Split in 1990 and in Budapest in 1998 – or even bettering it. If last year's World Championships in Berlin had incorporated a European contest, there would have been 11 British winners.
Charles van Commenee, the head coach who has played such a large role in effecting a significant upturn in the fortunes of the British team, is more cautious. The Dutchman says that gold for Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon "is the only one I count on. But I am sure there will be more than one," he added. It will be a great British disappointment if there are not a few more than one to celebrate in the arena where Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell struck Olympic gold in 1992.
10,000m (Final, Tuesday 8.05pm) and 5,000m (Final, Saturday 8.20pm)
The Somali-born, London-raised Briton starts the clear favourite for the 10,000m, the first final to be decided on the track in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium tomorrow night. He was a decisive winner of the European Cup race in May and stands top of the continental rankings – with his former age group rival, Chris Thompson, lying second after emerging from several years of injury problems. It would be fitting if Farah were to start a gold rush for the British team in Barcelona. He missed out by 0.09sec in the 5,000m four years ago. Like Thompson, he runs in the 5,000m later in the week but the 10,000m is his priority. For all of Britain's rich tradition, no Briton has ever won European 10,000m gold. For the time being, that is.
Past GB 10,000m winners: None. Best GB performances: Mike Tagg, silver 1969; Tony Simmons, silver 1974.
Past GB 5,000m winners: Sydney Wooderson 1946; Bruce Tulloh 1962; Ian Stewart 1969; Brendan Foster 1974; Jack Buckner 1986.
100m (Final, Wednesday 8.45pm)
Christophe Lemaitre is the fastest man in Europe this year, having become the first white sprinter to break 10 seconds for the 100m. The 20-year-old French flyer was beaten by Chambers at the European Team Championships in Bergen last month, though, and the 32-year-old Briton is hoping that experience will be on his side again in Barcelona. Just 0.03sec separated them in Norway and it could be even closer in the Catalan capital, in what promises to be the duel of the championships.
Past GB 100m winners: Jack Archer 1946; Linford Christie 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998.
Triple jump (Final, Thursday 6.40pm)
Idowu won the outdoor world title in Berlin last summer but has found himself somewhat eclipsed by the emerging young Frenchman Teddy Tamgho thus far in 2010. Tamgho broke the world indoor record in March and jumped a mighty 17.98m outdoors in New York in May. He has been struck by a calf problem in the past two weeks, though, and may be short of his best. With Christian Olsson, the 2006 champion, out through injury, the balance would appear to have tipped in favour of Idowu.
Past GB triple jump winners: Keith Connor 1982; Jonathan Edwards 1998.
100m (Final, Thursday 8.45pm)
While the teenage sensation Jodie Williams has been attracting the attention in British women's sprinting this summer, Turner has quietly emerged as a potential major championship medal winner – under the direction of Linford Christie, the men's 100m champion at the 1992 Olympics in the same Barcelona arena.
Alena Neumiarzhytskaya of Belarus heads the European rankings with 11.05sec but Turner lies second with 11.11sec. The 27-year-old from Northolt could be the first British medallist in the event since Andrea Lynch took bronze in Rome in 1974.
Past GB 100m winners: Heather Young 1958; Dorothy Hyman 1962.
400m (Final, Friday 8.25pm)
The 6ft 6in Rooney looked every inch a champion in the making when he triumphed at the British trials in Birmingham last month, dipping under 45sec in the process. Jonathan Borlee has since stormed to the top of the European rankings with a 44.77sec clocking and the Belgian goes to Barcelona as favourite. His emergence, however, may just draw the best out of Rooney, who will also have to contend with his Irish training partner, David Gillick.
Past GB 400m winners: Godfrey Brown 1938; Derek Pugh 1950; John Wrighton 1958; Robbie Brightwell 1962; David Jenkins 1971; Roger Black 1986, 1990; Du'aine Ladejo 1994; Iwan Thomas 1998.
WILLIAM SHARMAN AND ANDY TURNER
110m hurdles (Final, Friday 6.50pm)
Sharman is only eighth in the European rankings but he broke 13 seconds, albeit with wind assistance, in Madrid two weeks ago, and has shown his ability to rise to the big occasion. After making the British team as a last-minute addition at the World Championships in Berlin last summer, he very nearly made the podium, finishing fourth in the final. The big threat to the one-time Gladiators timekeeper and classically trained pianist could be his British team-mate Andy Turner, who took the bronze in Gothenburg four years ago.
Past GB 110m hurdles winners: Don Finlay 1938; Colin Jackson 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002.
JENNY MEADOWS AND JEMMA SIMPSON
800m (Final, Friday 8.50pm)
Mariya Savinova of Russia proved too quick for Meadows in the home straight at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in March and will start as favourite in Barcelona. Meadows has stepped up to medal-winning class, also taking bronze behind someone called Caster Semenya and Janeth Jepkosgei at the outdoor World Championships in Berlin last summer. The "pocket rocket" has been hit by calf and Achilles problems in the run-up to Barcelona, though, and it remains to be seen whether she will be blasting on full power.
Simpson sneaked past Meadows to take second place behind Savinova in the rankings with a 1min 58.74 sec personal best run in Monaco on Thursday and both Britons could be in the medals mix.
Past GB 800m winner: Lillian Board 1969.
1500m (Final, Friday 9pm)
The absence of France's dual champion Mehdi Baala has thrown the event wide open and Baddeley heads for Barcelona at the top of the European Championships, having come within 0.14sec of his lifetime best with a 3min 34.50sec clocking at the Gateshead Diamond League meeting. Since winning the Dream Mile in Oslo in 2008, the Cambridge aerospace engineering graduate has been held back by injury. Fellow Briton Tom Lancashire stands second in the rankings but the Spaniards Diego Casado and Diego Ruiz are likely to be difficult to beat on home ground.
Past GB 1500m winners: Sydney Wooderson 1938; Roger Bannister 1954; Brian Hewson 1958; John Whetton 1969; Steve Ovett 1978; Steve Cram 1982, 1986.
Heptathlon (Friday 9am-8pm and Saturday 10.15am-8pm)
A clear winner of the world outdoor title in Berlin last summer, a clear winner at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in March, Ennis starts as the clearest of favourites in Barcelona. The Sheffield athlete has not lost a multi-events competition she has managed to complete since finishing fourth in the World Championships in Osaka in 2007 (she was beaten by a triple foot fracture in the Gotzis heptathlon in Austria in 2008). She beat all of her rivals to win in Gotzis in May this year and, with better weather in Barcelona, could beat Denise Lewis' 10-year-old British heptathlon record.
Past GB heptathlon winner: Denise Lewis 1998.
800m (Final, Saturday 6.35pm)
The withdrawal of the injured 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy has opened a door of golden opportunity for Rimmer. The 24-year-old made his major championship debut in Gothenburg four years ago, reaching the final but bringing up the rear in eighth. This time round, the Liverpudlian could become the first British winner since Tom McKean in 1990. Rimmer has been in eye-catching form this summer and improved his lifetime best to 1min 44.49sec in the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne two weeks ago. He was narrowly beaten in that race by Marcin Lewandowski of Poland, the only faster European this summer. Lewandowski looks likely to be the biggest threat, but the defending champion Bram Som of the Netherlands is running into good form too.
Past GB 800m winners: John Parlett 1950; Mike Rawson 1958; Seb Coe 1986, Tom McKean 1990.
400m hurdles (Final, Saturday 7.10pm)
Greene is the only European who has ducked under 49sec this summer and has run the five fastest times in Europe. The Swansea Harrier, and one-time Swansea City youth team footballer, starts as the overwhelming favourite. Greene's closest rival could be his training partner and fellow Welshman, Rhys Williams. Son of J J Williams, the great Wales and British Lions rugby union wing, Williams is getting close to the form that won him bronze in Gothenburg in 2006.
Past GB 400m hurdles winners: Alan Pascoe 1974; Kriss Akabusi 1990.
1500m (Final, Sunday 8.15pm)
For the second summer in succession, Dobriskey has emerged from a prolonged spell of back-related problems in shape to challenge for a major championship medal. At the World Championships in Berlin last summer, she executed a tactical race of near perfection to take the silver medal behind Maryan Jamal of Bahrain, missing gold by a tantalising 0.01sec.
A fortnight ago the Ashford woman was sitting pretty at the top of the European rankings, looking like the number one contender for Barcelona. But then Anna Alminova returned from a drugs suspension to clock a stunning 3min 57.86sec in Paris. The Russian will start favourite.
Past GB 1500m winners: None. Best GB performance: Kelly Holmes, silver 1994.
MEN'S 4x100m RELAY
(Final, Sunday 6.35pm)
Dwain Chambers is out of the selection equation for Britain, the head coach, Charles van Commenee, having decided to pick only athletes eligible for the Olympics in the build-up to 2012. That could prove costly in Barcelona against a French quartet boasting two of the three fastest men in Europe this year: Christophe Lemaitre and Martial Mbandjock. Still, with seasoned relay men like Marlon Devonish, Mark Lewis-Francis and Christian Malcolm to call upon, plus the emerging James Dasaolu, Britain should have a fighting chance of victory.
Past GB 4 x 100m relay wins: 1998, 2006.
MEN'S 4x400m RELAY
(Final, Sunday 8.55pm)
A run of five British triumphs was brought to an end by the French in Gothenburg four years ago but the historical trend looks likely to be restored. With a quartet of Martyn Rooney, Michael Bingham, Conrad Williams and Rob Tobin, Britain will start as the team to beat in Barcelona.
Past GB 4 x 400m relay wins: 1950, 1958, 1974, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002.Reuse content