Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Mo the merrier in Anniversary Games waltz

By Billy Weir

Four years is a long time in many things. Four years ago, for example, the word 'Brexit' wasn't even a small lump in Boris Johnson's trousers, the USA wasn't faced with the political equivalent of cutting your toenails with a scythe or a chainsaw, and Russian athletes weren't taking more drugs than Ozzy Osborne used to.

Also four years ago, the London Olympics were about to start, not the Zika get-together coming up in Rio, and with that in mind the Anniversary Games took to the 'no longer the Olympic Stadium but West Ham's new ground the thingymajig Stadium' to see how the intervening period had affected our golden girls and boys.

After two days, the answer must be 'not good', which is bad news for Gabby Logan and her veritable army of the retired great and good athletes who now form the backbone of the Beeb's athletics team.

Long gone are the days when it was David Coleman and Ron Pickering, with someone picking up the pieces of the field events. There is now someone for everything, with the proviso that they still only show events where British athletes might do something.

There are two notable exceptions to the rule, one good, one not just as good, with Michael Johnson, surely the best pundit by a country mile, or 1,500m if you like, the star of the show and Rob Walker, the man who is very loud and annoying at the snooker and darts, now allowed to prowl around the arena and pounce on panting athletes like an overgrown aardvark on heat.

Christine Ohuruogu was the first Brit to exit, but we should be thankful that she turned up, finishing fifth. This set the tone, with Gabby introducing us to Eilidh Doyle, nee Child, in the 400m.

"She was a Child in 2012 but she is now very much the woman to watch out for as we head to Rio," she said. Mrs Doyle came fourth. Clearly stopping for a cup of tea was a mistake.

The men were at it too, Brendan Foster's performance of the night coming from Charlie Grice, who was ninth, but surely Jessica Ennis-Hill wouldn't let us down in the hurdles.

What a race it was, a new world record for Kendra Harrison and as for our Golden Girl? Ninth, lapped by Mrs Doyle. Not even Usain Bolt winning the 200m could lift our spirits, but surely things would get better on day two.

Gabby reappeared in a strange outfit that looked as if it had been a failed school project to make a pantomime cow that was then cunningly fashioned into a frock, but no time for that, it was time for Jess to put the disaster of the hurdles behind her with a battle against fellow heptathlete and hyphen-holder Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the long jump.

It went well for KJT, not so well for JEH, who failed to get close to the board in her run-up, with Steve Backley, former javelin-chucker and now picking up the pieces of the field events, telling us that "you have to get as close to that plasticene without going beyond it". Like holding a three-bar fire up to Morph.

Nothing though to the melting feeling Colin Jackson felt beside his giant TV explaining how Andrew Pozzi was the next great British hope in the 110m hurdles and how his team had overcome his injury-prone past only for Gabby to do a classic Coleman-esque finger to the ear and say "we're just hearing that he is not going to start this final. He had cramp in the warm-up". Remarkable.

From cramp to Steve Cram and he commentated on the final hope for glory in this land, with Mo Farah ending proceedings with a ridiculously easy 5,000m, or as Gabby said "a fantastic way to finish two scintillating days of athletics".

She concluded: "The next time we see you we'll have the honour of bringing you the 31st Olympic Games from Rio. Citius, altius, fortius." I'm not sure if this is hyphenated but she'll never get that frock through customs in Brazil.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph