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Olympics2012Back on Track: Olympic Stadium sessions were electrifying

Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012 | 07:49 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Mo Farah of Great Britain seems surprised himself that he captured a second gold medal on Saturday, finishing first in the 5,000. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) Mo Farah of Great Britain seems surprised himself that he captured a second gold medal on Saturday, finishing first in the 5,000. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

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Usain Bolt was the undoubted star of the show, writes Scott Russell, but others such as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and some Canadians, too, made the athletics sessions at Olympic Stadium an electrifying experience.
These Olympics in London have seen a return to greatness in more than one sport. There has been an intangible revival of some classic characteristics of the Games themselves.
It's just a feeling you get.
And nowhere has the restoration been greater than at the big stadium for track and field. It's apparent the faithful have come flocking back to Athletics, the original discipline of the modern Olympics.
The evidence is everywhere.
The immense grandstand is packed for every session. Preliminary heats in the morning and finals in the evening, it doesn't matter, there is standing room only to see the runners, jumpers and throwers.
An electrically charged atmosphere always prevails at the stadium which is more like a gigantic three-ring circus than anything else. Talk about being under the Big Top.
The main attraction is the Jamaican phenomenon, Usain Bolt. He's danced and pranced and dominated the headlines in every way. The only man to repeat as 100 metre, 200 and 4x100 relay champion in the Olympic crucible. Bolt is the one they come to see and the remarkable thing is, the vast majority of those watching have faith that he's the real deal.
There is very little talk about doping. Rather there is a cacophony of noise about Bolt's impending legendary status. The World records and the amazing speed of the great man overwhelm us. He's become the "Pied Piper" of track and field and his following is of gigantic proportions.
"We have to stand behind Usain because what he's doing here is not only for the country but about a legacy," said Jamaican-Canadian Delford Blythe who has made the pilgrimage to London to watch Bolt run. "He's setting the stage for future successes but right now the moment is all about Usain Bolt."
That's only partly true.
There are others who have shared centre stage on the track with the magnificent sprinter at these Games and they've all contributed to a renewed allegiance to the sport. All this bearing in mind the atmosphere is the right one. British folks have a passion for and a history in Athletics.
Heptathlon star Jessica Ennis is a 26-year-old from Sheffield, UK and she's captured the imagination of not only British partisans but also fans from the four corners of the World.
An 18-year-old competitor from Maldives, when asked to name the best athlete at these Olympics didn't hesitate.
"Jessica Ennis," Afa Ismail said immediately. "It's because she is great."
Her words were echoed by many folks we talked to at the gates to the Athlete's village. The photogenic Ennis, touted as the poster girl of an Olympics that's approached gender equity, has delivered on the promise.
So too has Mohamed Farah or "Mo" as he's known to everyone here.
Farah is a distance man who, as an eight-year-old, escaped war torn Somalia with his family to find a home in Great Britain. His hero is Muhammad Ali and he has fashioned his running out of an admiration for celebrated British marathoner Paula Radcliffe.
In London, Farah electrified the crowds at the Olympic Stadium by flashing his brilliant white teeth in exaltation as he won both the 10,000 and 5,000 classics. He vanquished the dominant East Africans and after each victory was joined by his wife and young children on the field of play.
The entire Olympic family celebrated his joy. It was absolutely thrilling to watch.
Canadians also made their way back to the spotlight in track and field. Perhaps they heard the word from the iconic sprint champion Donovan Bailey.
"You know how I feel," Bailey quipped. "To me the Olympics begin when track and field begins."
And so it was that Damian Warner, a 22-year-old from London, Ont., had a breakout performance in the Decathlon. He traveled in the same company as the magnificent American, Ashton Eaton and never looked out of place.
The capper came when the Maple Leaf men in the 4x100M relay raced with the mighty Jamaicans and Americans. They recalled the glory days of Bailey, Bruny Surin, Glenroy Gilbert and Robert Esmie and carved out some space with the elites of the athletics world.
A podium result but ultimately they were disqualified, a costly misstep by one runner on the white line. Still, it was heart stopping and heartbreaking to watch. Drama that reality TV could never dream of matching.
To be there was spellbinding.
Tens of thousands of flashbulbs speckled the glittering stadium each and every night. Bolt ran, flags waved, and for the entire universe the heartbeat quickened.
In London, the Olympics got back on track in a big way.

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