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Oliver prepared for the 'one-day Olympics'

The inaugural Diamond League series will crown 16 champions tonight, giving the season-long winners in each event the right to be called the No 1 in the world.

The Weltklasse meeting in Zurich has long been called the "one-day Olympics" by athletics aficionados for its depth of talent. Now, it acts as the first half of the Diamond League finals. The 14-date global series ends on 27 August in Brussels with finals in the remaining 16 track and field disciplines.

"Zurich is, to me, the best meeting on the European circuit and it's not even close," said David Oliver, the American 110m hurdler. Oliver is one of five athletes scheduled to arrive at Zurich with an unbeatable points lead in their Diamond Race event standings.

Usain Bolt's season-ending back injury robbed Zurich of its main attraction, though with the 100m final slated for Brussels, he was due to run just the 4x100 relay for Jamaica in a field including an American quartet headed by Tyson Gay.

Gay confirmed on Tuesday that he would run – "I normally prefer the third leg," he said – but skips the 200m with a slight knee injury despite being in Diamond Race contention after points leader Walter Dix withdrew with an unspecified injury.

Organisers said yesterday that Dix is no longer eligible to win the award because rules state competing in the final is mandatory. Another American, Wallace Spearmon, now leads the 200m standings.

Runaway points leaders expected to compete include the American sprinters Jeremy Wariner and four-time winner Carmelita Jeter in the women's 100m, plus Kenya's Nancy Jebet Langat in the women's 1500m.

A near 30,000 crowd at Letzigrund stadium can look forward to some decisive showdowns. Perhaps the best pits Lolo Jones of the US against Canada's Priscilla Lopes-Schliep for the 100m hurdles prize.

Allyson Felix is the points leader in the 400m, and is aiming for a Diamond League double as she is set to take the 200m prize in Brussels. Dwight Phillips of the US leads in the long jump and can be denied only by Australia's Fabrice Lapierre.

The women's long jump Diamond Race is a four-way contest headed by world champion Brittney Reese of the US. Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic will try to hold off American Kara Patterson for the women's javelin prize.