Fresh off my Vietnamese adventure I felt it was high time I went off and did something else I have never done in my life. Two days after touching down on Korean soil again I was on the KTX headed up to Daegu to meet Sam at the train station. Last year Sam was generous to but me tickets for the innaugral Korean F1 Grand Prix so I felt it necessary to return the gift. A couple of months back I purchased tickets for the opening day of the World Atletics Championships. The tickets being so reasonably priced I decided to get both morning and evening session tickets for the pair of us.
From Daegu station we craftily jumped on a free shuttle bus to Daegu Stadium. We arrived at the stadium and picked up our tickets. Daegu Stadium is almost an identikit version of Eastlands, although it has a running track around the edge rather than lots of annoying Manchester city fans. In the morning session we had seats next to the starting blocks. As usual, in Korea, there was a pitiful choice of food outlets and we resorted to beer and sausage on a stick for brunch. The morning session was full of qualifying events. We saw some disappointing pole vaulters and the womens 3000m steeple chase semi-finals. The highlight of the morning session came in the mens 100m preliminary round. Sogelau Tuvalu of American Samoa briefly threatened Usain Bolt’s reign as champion, but then he started running and clocked an unimpressive 15.66 seconds. Tuvalu was 50m adrift as his competitors crossed the line. When Tuvalu crossed the line there was an ironic, but slightly sporting, cheer from the crowd.
We headed into Daegu for some lunch and beer before heading back to the stadium for the evening session and opening ceremony. The opening ceremony was pretty good, not on the level of an olympic opening ceremony, but entertaining none the less. Lee Myung Bak the Korean president turned up and even got a grumbled cheer. The highlight was an epic fireworks display which Sam and I missed as it was set off right above our seats. So we watched it on the big screen at the oppostie end of the stadium.
The evening sessions events were dominated by the womens 10k race which was a 1,2,3,4 for the Kenyan women, Christine Ohuruogu being disqualified by what is fast becoming a controversial “one strike and you are out rule” and finally the main attraction of seeing Usain Bolt run in the qualifying round of the 100m. Bolt was never going to run his fastest or break the world record but it is great to say you have seen the fastest man to ever grace our planet. Ironically if we had gone on Sunday we would have only seen him get disqualified for a false start!
Athletics can be incredibly boring to watch sometimes. However, the sense of occassion and the support in the stadium certainly brought a new quality to athletics for me. I can now relax at home again with the TV on in the background and watch the British team disappoint and see Bolt regain some pride in the relay and 200m, as I get back to watching the more important sports of football on my laptop!