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Less Than 18 Hours Before The Meet
By Steve Ritchie
August 14, 2009

IAAFWC 2009 Track in Berlin, Germany
BERLIN - After collecting my media credential this afternoon, I walked over to Stadio Olympico to look around there less than 18 hours before the start of the IAAF World Championship Track and Field Meet. Workers were still doing their thing. For a coach who struggles at times to put on high school meets, it made me feel good to see that not everything was in place, and that there were still dozens of people running around to get things right. The jump pits were in the middle of the pole vault runway, and the pole vault pits and jump box were nowhere to be seen. The protective screen wasn't on the hammer cage yet. But I have faith in the German organizational capabilities; no doubt all will be in order by tomorrow at 10 am local time.

The Olympic Stadium itself is amazing. A massive, gray concrete structure, it was the site of the 1936 Olympics where Jesse Owens famously won four gold medals and made Hitler's Aryan superiority stand look ridiculous. But once you get inside the stadium, you don't see much that reminds you of 1936. A partial glass and steel roof extends over the spectators. The bright blue track and trendy pale green infield look sensational. Three huge video screens are placed around the stadium, and the VIP area was highlighted with large, potted plants. The press area was dotted with screens and Ethernet connections. I sat down to take a look at the "Epson Press Information Program" that was on the touch screens and found everything was right there. One touch and you get the all-time best list for an event, another and you get live results. Pretty cool stuff.

As is usually the case on the first weekend of major championship meets, the focus Saturday and Sunday will be on the men's 100 meters. This time we have the clash of titans, with the colorful Usain Bolt, who captured the world's attention in Beijing, back to do battle with the 2007 champion Tyson Gay, who has overcome a chronic hamstring injury to post some very fast times so far this year. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that Bolt is untouchable. Tomorrow the sprinters will run the first and second rounds, with 12 heats scheduled in the first round. Bolt will run in heat 9 and Gay in heat 11. There are sure to be fireworks right from the start. In contrast, there are only 6 heats of the women's 400 meters scheduled. It was very interesting to see that Claudia Yemelia of Bahrain, with a personal best of 55.79, drew a better lane than Sanya Richards, the odds-on favorite who has run 48.70. In this qualifiying heat, Sanya will be in lane 7, while Claudia, the slowest entrant, gets the best lane - the 5th. I don't think it will help her. Sanya will still run a lot faster.

One major bit of news in the women's 10,000 meters. Tirunesh Dibaba, the Olympic 5,000 meter champion and one of the favorites in the 10K here, has withdrawn due to injury. She is still hoping to be back for the 5,000 later in the week. Her withdrawal may provide a brighter glimmer of hope for Shalane Flanagan and Amy Begley, the Americans who hope to build on the breakthrough race of Shalane's bronze medal showing at Beijing. It all gets started tomorrow.

 
 

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