LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s athletics fans were out in force again on Friday as 60,000 filled the Olympic Stadium for a Diamond League meeting that doubled up as London’s “Anniversary Games” with Usain Bolt filling his accustomed role as star billing.
Just under 12 months ago the Jamaican thrilled the fans with his second successive triple Olympic gold medal sweep, including the second-fastest 100 meters ever run at 9.63 seconds, and he was due to race over the same distance in the final race of the night at 20.48GMT on Friday.
Organizers gave the fans an early glimpse of the sport’s biggest name, however, as he was paraded round the track on a four-wheeled rocket and received a rapturous reception.
Bolt, persuaded to return to London by a British Government concession on the taxation of earnings, will also go in the 4x100m relay on Saturday, the second day of the Diamond League meeting which sold out within 30 minutes of tickets becoming available.
Home favorite Mo Farah will also be in action on Saturday over 3,000 meters, when memories of the extraordinary atmosphere surrounding his 10,000 and 5,000 meter Olympic wins will come flooding back.
Just to be sure, the two giant screens at either end of the stadium, reduced by 20,000 from its Olympic capacity, showed a constant stream of highlights from last year’s Games to get everyone in the mood on a warm and muggy night in the capital.
Athletes from all over the world were united in praise for the fans in the stadium a year ago, when the noise levels, even in the sold-out morning sessions, reached unprecedented levels.
There was a glimpse of what was to come before the action even began on Friday as a hefty roar greeted a 100m race between two radio-controlled discus-returning miniature cars.
Outside it was all slightly surreal as spectators went through the usual motions of posing for photographs, despite much of Olympic Park resembling a building site as venues are removed, changed and re-arranged.
Premier League soccer team West Ham United will make the main stadium their home from the start of the 2016/17 season and they will need to deliver some pretty special performances to do it justice.
Editing by Justin Palmer