I am currently in Rome so when the 2009 IAAF Golden League meet passed though town, I just had to go.
I won’t get into the results yet, as they are on the official web site, but I wanted to share some of my overall thoughts of the meet.
The Olympic Stadium was home of the 1960 Summer Olympics as well as the 1987 World Championships. I still remember Ben Johnson’s 9.83 victory over Carl Lewis in the 100 meters.
Getting there by public transport was fairly easy. If you can get to either the Flaminio Metro station, Rome North train station, Villa Borghese, or Piazza del Popolo, then it’s just one tram ride (Number 2) to Piazza Mancini and then a short walk across the bridge. You can’t miss it.
Security entering the stadium baffled me, as they inspected my bags, and confiscated my bottle caps to my bottled water and Gatorade. I was left with 2 large bottles of beverages, but too cumbersome to carry around without spilling. Oh well, it’s a good thing I didn’t bring a six pack or case of beer and have to drink it all by myself.
The attendance started off sparse, but then quickly filled up. My guess was about 20,000 and that’s without Usain Bolt! His presence would have made it standing room only. The Tyson Gay – Asafa Powell match up produced some hype to fill the seats.
What helped with the attendance was the scholastic 12×200 meters mixed relay (boys and girls) 3 hours prior to the meet, followed by the relay final to start off the official Roma Golden Gala meet. This is a great way to bring the sport to the grass roots and not lose them to soccer.
There wasn’t a bad seat anywhere in the stadium. They used oversized posters to cover up some of the unused seats to give it a full atmosphere. Ticket prices were very reasonable, at 10 Euro for general admission by section, or 20 Euro for “finish line” seats.
I arrived early and sat in an empty section near the 30 meter mark, but it quickly filled up with Ethiopian fans. You can just imagine the crowd going nuts when Kenenisa Bekele ran (and easily won, of course). Just like the Jamaican fans in Toronto last month. I did my very best to cheer for Pricilla and Perdita in the 100 meter hurdles, but I think I was the only Canadian in the stands.
There was a meet program and start list on every seat. This is a nice touch as many North American meets charge extra for this as their “fundraiser”.
Four field events were going on concurrently (wPV, mJT, wHJ, mLJ), with 4 separate scoreboards (thanks to Omega timing) giving updates throughout the meet. Hence another good reason to have a
good knowledgeable announcer to keep you entertained and informed.
The Pole Vault and Javelin Throw shared the apron so their runways intersected. The High Jump was at the opposite side of the field. Safe enough as long as the men’s Javelin doesn’t exceed 100 meters!
I’ll discuss the meet results and some of the “behind the scenes stories” in another article.