Glasgow 2014 – Athletics, 28 July

Another fantastic evening’s sport at the Commonwealth Games was had at Hampden Park on Monday evening.  I had been excited about this evening since receiving the email from Glasgow 2014 to confirm that I would indeed be in Hampden for the mens’ 100m final. There might be no Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake, but that event is always one of the highlights of any athletics programme. I couldn’t wait.

A nice iPhone panorama shot of the Hampden athletics set up (C. Kennedy)

A nice iPhone panorama shot of the Hampden athletics set up (C. Kennedy)

As for Hampden itself, it looks absolutely glorious as an athletics stadium. It is no longer ideal for football with its shallowly sloping stands and huge playing surface – to me it looked absolutely ideal for athletics. No doubt it will be converted back into a football stadium after these games as planned. For the track to remain and this facility to stay in place would be fantastic and potentially provide the kind of “legacy” that is often talked about. Our seats were a lot better than those ones I was complaining about at Ibrox in a previous post, about 20 rows back at the opening bend with bags of legroom. They were also in the aisle, which meant easy access for a few cheeky bottles of Heineken through the evening.

Hampden looking great in Commonwealth Games mode

Hampden looking great in Commonwealth Games mode

The action itself was also excellent. The undoubted highlight of the evening was Libby Clegg’s gold medal in the womens’ T11/12 100m (for blind or partially sighted athletes), the Scot winning by more than a second, something of a chasm in sprinting terms. The subsequent singing of “Flower of Scotland” was also pretty special.

Libby Clegg and her guide runner Mikhail Huggins celebrate gold (to the left of that big camera pole)

Libby Clegg and her guide runner Mikhail Huggins celebrate gold (to the left of that big camera pole)

In the end the womens’ 100m final, despite my previous eagerness, was probably the more world-class event than the mens’. Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria stormed through to win with a rather good time of 10.85, a new Games record. In the mens’ race, Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole snatched gold from England’s Adam Gemili, Bailey-Cole winning with a time of ten seconds dead. Gemili was given a raucous welcome and support from the crowd, but it wasn’t quite enough for him to take first.

Blessing Okagbare is pretty happy with her gold medal

Blessing Okagbare is pretty happy with her gold medal

The other stand out event of the evening, for me, was the womens’ hammer throw. The fantastically named Sultana Frizell won that with a throw of 71.97m. Although a long way short of the World Record in the event, it was clear that Frizell was the closest to a good-standard athlete in that field; she also broke the Games Record.

IMG_1831

Bit of hammer

The Hampden crowd was also fantastic. Clearly the Scots on the track or in the field were given the greatest ovation. Indeed, any home nations athlete, be they from England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Jersey, were given a similarly loud welcome by the crowd. The “Hampden Roar” was back, but for folk running round an athletics track rather than for football. As well as those from the home nations, though, every athlete was given their due and, as with the Rugby, the crowd was also able to pick a favourite or two for the evening. For this Monday night it was undoubtedly Grenada’s Kurt Felix in the Decathlon, who was far and away the best high-jumper in the field to the point that his 400m heat had to be swapped so he could warm down. When he cleared 2.12m, 44,000 folk in the Southside of Glasgow belted out their approval.

An absolutely packed Hampden Park

An absolutely packed Hampden Park

The evening ended then with the thought of what Hampden could be in the future if the SFA dared to move away and take the national football side round Scotland instead, and indeed if Glasgow put in a bid for the 2021 World Athletics Championship. What we had certainly witnessed was a wonderful evening of sport, in a great venue, in what seems to be the ideal city for these Games.

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