The crowds may not have been up to the standards of London 2012, but there was no doubting who the population of Moscow had come to see last night. It was a mere heat of the 100 metres, but the flashbulbs pinged from every stand of the Luzhniki Stadium as Usain Bolt sauntered into the next round.
Much of the usual fun and games were missing from the start line, Bolt merely dancing on his toes like a boxer entering the ring. But, like any top heavyweight, he permanently carries an assurance that this is his arena, and the 26-year-old will aim to prove that in today's semi-finals and, more crucially, in the final. Asked if he was confident of being crowned world champion, he simply said: "Always," before adding: "I'm happy just to be out here and I'm feeling good."
There had been fears of a repeat of his World Championships disqualification in the same event two years ago, gasps emanating here at the start of his heat as the gun went off, signalling a false start. But Bolt was never going to be the guilty party; he was so slow out of the blocks that he was arguably the last man to get going.
Once he was up and running at the second time of asking, it was never going to be about the time – he crossed the line in a relatively sedentary 10.07 seconds – but he remains the man to beat, of which he is well aware.
It left a sweeter taste in the mouth than the sour one earlier in the day with news of another sprinter's failed drugs test. This time the athlete was Kelly Ann-Baptiste, from Trinidad and Tobago, who won bronze in the 100m at the last Worlds and is part of the same training group as Tyson Gay.
Team officials announced that Baptiste had tested positive for a banned substance, voluntarily withdrawn from the competition and is returning home.
Apart from the news of that failed test, the night belonged to Farah, but that will change tonight as Bolt takes centre stage again. There are those who will believe they can beat him, notably Justin Gatlin, one of only two runners to break 10 seconds in the heats with a time of 9.99sec, which was just shaded by his American countryman Mike Rodgers's 9.98.
For a British public starved of a sprinter to mix it consistently with the Jamaicans and Americans, this was billed as a potential chance for James Dasaolu to once again lay down a marker. Dasaolu has not raced since his electric 9.91sec effort in the semi-finals of the national trials almost a month ago. He pulled out of the final with cramp in his calf and then missed a possible showdown with Bolt at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games, suffering from a stiff hip flexor joint.
The 25-year-old had been talked of as a potential medallist in Moscow, but in truth he was lucky to sneak into today's semi-finals. Running in the fourth of seven heats, he struggled to capture the fluent rhythm shown in Birmingham and failed to seal one of the automatic qualifying places as he eased up over the line. But his time of 10.20sec was just enough to sneak the penultimate fastest-loser spot. Had he been just one hundredth of a second slower, his championships would have been over.
Dasaolu admitted: "I haven't had the best of preparations since my 9.91. I had a hip problem when I had to pull out of the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games. It's been my first time out of blocks for two weeks and I didn't know where I was coming from as I haven't been able to train as much.
"I just hope I correct a few things and do myself justice at these championships. I thought I had third in the bag [in his heat] and I eased up to save energy, like you do through the rounds. I'm just glad it hasn't cost me a spot in the semi-finals."
How his body reacts today to his race is the big question. While he insists he is anything but frail athlete prone to injury, the statistics suggest otherwise.
Yet he says he is currently running "pain free", adding: "I'd like to believe I can race better. My body will adjust overnight and I'll step my game up. It was just rustiness."
All three Britons in the event will line up for the semi-finals, Dwain Chambers and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey both finishing third in their heats in times of 10.14 and 10.16 respectively.
Hardee out of decathlon
Double defending decathlon world champion Trey Hardee was out as he no-heighted in the high jump leaving fellow Americans Ashton Eaton and Gunnar Nixon fighting it out at the halfway mark.
Hardee, who triumphed in Berlin and Daegu and took Olympic silver behind Eaton last year, was off the pace on the opening morning yesterday and went into the high jump, the fourth discipline, in fifth.
"My hamstring got tight in the second jump and wouldn't release and the third jump came too soon," he said. "Gunnar has done well but Ashton is the man to beat," added Hardee, prophetically, ahead of the 400m. At that stage 20-year-old Nixon was leading after personal bests in the long jump (7.80m) and shot (14.68) as well as the day's best high jump with 2.14. Eaton then showed why he is the world record holder with a 46.02 lap of the blue track, the fastest 400m ever in a world championship decathlon, for the overnight lead.Reuse content