They had already been rolling back the years here before Mo Farah took to the track for the final race on the opening night of the Aviva London Grand Prix.
There was David Rudisha smashing the UK all-comers' 800m record that had stood to Steve Cram since the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Then there was the sight of Merlene Ottey, the grand dame of the sprint game, taking the baton for a Slovenian quartet in the4 x 100m relay, still pursuing a life in the fast lanes at the age of 51.
Ottey was a slip of a 20-year-old when she first raced at Crystal Palace in 1980. It was two years after that when Dave Moorcroft set the British 3,000m record that might have been at Farah's mercy in front of a raucous home crowd here in south London last night – had he been minded to chase the clock, that is.
The Londoner said on Thursday that victory was his priority, and thus it proved. Ignoring the American pacemaker David Krummenacker, Farah bided his time before hitting the front with 300m remaining and then unleashing a devastating kick with 200m to go – the kind that Steve Ovett used to produce in the days when he was the king of Crystal Palace.
Clocking a stunning 25.2sec for that final furlong, the 28-year-old finished 30m clear of Kenya's Gideon Gathimba in 7 min 40.15sec – just short of eight seconds shy of Moorcroft's British record but with a 10th successive win in the bag. Three months out from the World Championships in Deagu, South Korea, the rest of the planet's 10,000m and 5,000m men must be wondering how they are going to stop the British Fly Mo."I was really confident," Farah reflected. "I just wanted to try a different tactic."
Right from the off in the 800m, Cram's all comers' record looked in peril as the 6ft 3in Rudisha got straight into his powerful stride. With Cram on television commentary duties, the Kenyan was clear in front when pacemaker Sammy Tangui stepped off the track with 350m remaining.
Abubaker Kaki tried to close the gap down the home straight but Rudisha – initiated as a Maasai warrior after his two world record runs in Europe last summer – had too much in the tank for the world indoor champion from Sudan. Rudisha crossed the line in 1min 42.91sec, stretching his winning streak to 50 races, with Kaki the runner-up in 1:43.15 – also inside the 1:43.22 that Cram clocked in claiming Commonwealth gold ahead of Tom McKean and Peter Elliott.
"I was feeling in great shape," Rudisha said. "I knew I was going to break this record." On the domestic front, Andrew Osagie, a black belt in karate, broke his personal best with 1:45.36 in fifth place, an A standard qualifying time for the World Championships.
Ottey's surprise cameo appearance came as some compensation for the withdrawal from the men's 100m field yesterday morning of Asafa Powell, the former world record holder not wishing to aggravate a groin problem with the World Championships in such close proximity. Despite having passed a half century in age last year, Ottey has her sights on being in London 12 months from now competing in an eighth Olympic Games.
She made her Olympic debut for her native Jamaica in t1980, when Margaret Thatcher was a year into her reign as British Prime Minister and Bjorn Borg was the Wimbledon champion, winning a bronze in the 200m in Moscow. Thirty-one years and eight more Olympic medals later, Ottey has dropped off the pace required to make the major championship grade as an individual sprinter but is still a key member of the Slovenian relay team. Running the anchor leg last night, she helped her adopted country to sixth in 44.40sec, 0.40sec outside the qualifying time for the World Championships."If we qualify, I would be happy to be part of the Slovenian relay team in Daegu and in London," Ottey said.
From a domestic viewpoint, Farah was not the only impressive British performer. Jenny Meadows, the 5ft 1in "Pocket Rocket", blasted to victory in the women's 800m, timing her effort to perfection as she outsprinted Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair. The 30-year-old was rewarded with a season's best time, 1min 58.60sec. "It's the perfect preparation for Daegu," Meadows said. "I'm coming into form at the right time."
So is Chris Tomlinson. Last month the long jumper reclaimed the British record with a leap of 8.35m in Paris. Last night he jumped 8.30m, taking second place behind Aussie Mitchell Watt's 8.45m, with fellow Briton Greg Rutherford third in 8.19m.