Monday, 26 February 2018

Athletics Indoor Grand Prix, Glasgow

Inside the indoor athletic stadium
It was my first visit to the Emirates Indoor Athletic stadium in Glasgow for the Muller Indoor Athletic Grand Prix. A fine way of keeping warm on another cold Sunday in February. We parked at Bridgeton Cross and walked the mile or so along the empty highway through the starkly depressing new offices and housing towards Dalmarnock. The Emirates stadium has grand ambition but even on a rare in use day seemed a bit desolate, it is located opposite the increasingly untidy looking Celtic Park.

The stadium's 5000 seats were well filled and the offer of a free Muller Yoghurt on arrival provided a late lunch. Much as I enjoy athletics, I was staggered at the facilities provided to accommodate an indoor event. There was lots of empty unused spaces on a day when it was almost at capacity. The facility along with the adjacent velodrome cost £113m to build as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It is only used spasmodically for indoor athletic events although the track and field event facilities are available for local athletes. The venue also hosts Basketball, Netball, Tennis and Badminton events.

There was a good participation by world-class athletes competing in the last Grand Prix of the European indoor season. Athletes from the USA, China and other countries were using the event to prepare for the world indoor championships to be held in Birmingham next week. It is a long time since I last watched an indoor athletics event and I was surprised at how emaciated most of the athletes looked. Only Greg Rutherford, the long jumper, looked heavily muscled and he was far from peak condition as he finished fourth in the long jump. We had seats close to where the athletes entered the track and we were able to observe the complexity of officiating for the different events, with judges, timekeepers, starters and officials not always working in tandem with each other. The ladies long jump was stopped one round early to allow a competitor to take part in the 60 metres. The staff responsible for resetting the pole vault bar had great difficulty performing the task and a large lady official guided the competitors about with brutal Glasgow commands.

The highlights were watching the women's pole vault at close quarters, seeing Kenya’s outstanding Beatrice Chepkoech, who moves like mercury, dominate the women's 1500 metres and Tom Bosworth break the world record for the 3000-metre walk. The men's 60m final was won by China's Su Bingtian with the evergreen Mike Rogers second and the 41-year-old Kim Collins making the final.

The TV coverage by the BBC interfered with the events so that interviews could be conducted with British winners and attempts made to clap and glorify British athletes. This was hardly justified with the exception of Tom Bosworth and Dinah Asher-Smith in the women's 60 metres but as with the recent winter Olympics, our press and media are obsessively and obsequiously patriotic. This was to my mind an insult to the many exceptional athletes from other countries. As the fine generation of UK athletes funded by an exceptional explosion in sports facilities and coaching from the turn of the Millenium begins to dry up and as government austerity closes many facilities, we will soon be back to celebrating the plucky British loser.

Pole vault competition
Men's 1500m final
Get ready for Men's 60m final
Men's 60m final
Katerina Stefanidi, Olympic and World pole vault champion, 
Celtic Park across the road from the Emirates

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