Was it ever in doubt? It didn’t look like it in east London tonight, when the greatest sprinter there has ever been came streaking down the track like, well like only he has ever done, taking yet another giant stride towards immortality.
“He’s lost it.” … “He’s not committed enough.” The words have been reverberating around Stratford, and the world, over the last few weeks. He should have had them printed on the back of his vest, the only bit of him the pretenders to his throne laid their eyes on. 9.63 was the time. Not a world record, but an Olympic one. His training partner, and chief challenger Yohan Blake came in second, but from 30 metres, there was no doubt. He didn’t swagger over the line this time, pumping his chest, as he did in Beijing four years ago, but he probably could have afforded to – just.
There is no script of course, but it was unquestionably the ending the 80,000 crowd wanted. When the 25-year-old Jamaican emerged the roar was as loud as any that has greeted Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah in this unforgettable arena. But then, there were no Brits to cheer for. The veteran Dwain Chambers and the 18-year-old Adam Gemili missed out on qualifying by two hundredths of a second.
Finishing in second, Blake’s time of 9.75 was a personal best, while Justin Gatlin, who served a four-year drugs ban in 2006, narrowly finished ahead of his US teammate, Tyson Gay, in third place with a personal best time of 9.79. Seven out of the eight starters finished under 10 seconds with the injured Asafa Powell finishing in 11.99.
“I said it on the track, people can talk, but when it comes to championships it is all about business for me and I brought it, said Bolt after the race. “It was wonderful. I knew [the crowd] would be like this, I can feel that energy and I am extremely happy,”
He added: “I have got the 200m to go and I really want to do something special in that, I am looking forward to it.”
"Usain knows what it takes, he is a world beater and he is the fastest man in the world. But I got a gold medal in my first Olympic games and a lot of that is down to Usain and our coach," said Yohan Blake.
Earlier, spectators holding the London 2012 equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket had arrived in a state of eager anticipation. The ticket ballot for the blue riband event was 10 times oversubscribed.
Rod Fellowes, 53, a computer consultant from Newport, Virginia, waved his distinctive purple ticket triumphantly as he arrived at the arena, having flown overnight across the Atlantic. A self-confessed “athletics nutjob”, he said: “I’m so completely delighted to be here. It’s been my dream for many, many years to watch the Olympic 100 metres. It will be the ride of my life.”
Others not quite so fortunate in the ticket lottery were willing to try more unconventional means, including a pair of attractive young women holding up a sign reading: “Take me with you for free – ticket wanted.”
There was resentment that despite an undertaking from organisers that 75 per cent of Olympic tickets would be sold to the British public, fewer than one in two of those in the stadium last night were from the host nation.
Jackie Doherty, 23, from Maidstone, Kent, who had been to watch basketball, said: “Like most people here I would give my eye teeth for a seat in there tonight. Having spent £9bn of public money on this I’d have thought we could be a bit more greedy on getting the British public in there.”
Tickets were being sold for £1,500 on websites including eBay and Craigslist. One man entering the top-priced AA seating area, declined to give his name. He said: “I can’t tell you because if my wife finds out how much I paid for this ticket she’ll have my head on a plate. I bought it last week after the Opening Ceremony – I just had to be here. Put it like this, I won’t be buying a Porsche any time soon.”
A bad night for British hopes in 100m
None of the three British men in the semi-finals qualified for the final. Dwain Chambers was closest, clocking a time of 10.05, This was 0.03 slower than his time in the heats and the same distance away from the last qualifier, Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, who ran home in 10.02. Chambers finished fourth in a semi-final won by Usain Bolt. Adam Gemili, 18, ran 10.06 and finished third in his semi, quicker than his 10.11 in the heats. He finished behind Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay. James Dasaolu, who ran a season’s best 10.13 in the heats, came home in 10.18, finishing seventh in his semi-final.
Gatlin’s back after decade off the podium
A decade after his last Olympic podium finish and following four years in drugs ban exile, controversial US sprinter, Justin Gatlin, returned to medal glory last night. When Gatlin won gold in the 100m at the Athens Olympics in 2004 he was feted as the new US star of track and field, following in an illustrious line of American sprint kings that included Carl Lewis.
But in 2006 he tested positive for unusual levels of “testosterone or its precursors” and was banned for four years. Last night he finished in third place in the men’s 100m in a personal best time of 9.79sec. “I got back on the podium for the first time in 10 years,” he said. “It feels good.”
Olympic 100: A short race with a long history
1896 The first 100m is won by American Thomas Burke in 12 secs.
1936 USA's Jesse Owens takes the title in Berlin in 10.3 secs, demolishing Hitler's notions of Aryan superiority.
1948 At the last London Games, Harrison Dillard of USA wins in 10.3 secs.
1972 In a Cold War victory for USSR, Valeriy Borzov beats USA's Robert Taylor in 10.14 secs.
1980 Defying a boycott of the Moscow Games Allan Wells wins for Britain in 10.25 secs.
1984 Carl Lewis wins in 9.99 secs.
1988 Called "the dirtiest race in history", Canadian Ben Johnson clocks a world record time of 9.79 secs. After Johnson fails a drug test, Carl Lewis is promoted to gold
1992 Linford Christie becomes the first British winner since Allan Wells in Moscow in 1980, as well as the oldest, aged 32, edging out Frankie Fredericks of Namibia in 9.96 secs
1996 Heartbreak for Linford Christie in Atlanta, as the defending champion is disqualified after two false starts, leaving Canadian Donovan Bailey to take the gold in a time of 9.84, a new world record.
2008 A coronation for the Jamaican Usain Bolt as he streaks ahead. Running with one shoelace untied and slowing up to celebrate in the last few metres he still clocks a world record time of 9.69 secs.