10 June 2008
Article as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine
A wet Bank Holiday Monday is a British cliché. Rarely, though, is the weather as atrocious as it was last week. That didn’t prevent more than 6,000 runners from experiencing what may be one loop of the 2012 Olympic marathon in the inaugural Bupa London 10,000 – including three athletes already selected to run the marathon for Britain this summer in Beijing.
From my bedraggled position a fair few minutes behind the elite athletes, the appeal of the course shone through the sluicing rain. Not only did it lace its way past many of London’s iconic sights, but it was surprisingly quick in spite of a few sharpish turns – including one that allowed rare respite from the rain under the arches of the City’s Leadenhall Market.
As with many mass races, a sizeable proportion of the runners will have been attracted by the prospect of sharing a race with some of the world’s greatest endurance athletes. In this instance, though, I suspect that the lure of what might be Olympic tarmac and cobblestones was paramount.
Not all of that tarmac is currently in pristine condition – which will be no surprise to those City workers who like me have watched utility companies digging incessantly in the Square Mile in recent years. Four years for the new London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to do a bit of filling and levelling then. And the storm drains could do with clearing, just in case the rain gods frown on us again in August 2012.
The arrival of the new Mayor is just the latest in a string of political changes in recent times that affect the future of athletics. In my short 17 month tenure at UKA I’ve now seen three Culture Secretaries, two Sports Ministers, the creation of an Olympics Minister, a vacant Chair at Sport England for six months, two chief Executives of Sport England and two London Mayors, not to mention a change in the Scottish political landscape and a new Chair at sportscotland. My apologies to any I might have missed! For once, perhaps, athletics appears a model of stability.
One of Boris Johnson’s first engagements in his new role was at the ceremony to mark the start of construction of the Olympic Stadium. He took the opportunity to reinforce the message he made with the appointment of Kate Hoey to advise him on sport – that he would be tough on Olympic budgeting and that he would focus on the Games’ sporting legacy rather than its regenerative impact in East London.
The new emphasis on sporting legacy is important for athletics, and we will be working hard to influence the decisions of the new mayoral team, as well as pointing out the odd pothole or two.