Alex Chick

9.63 seconds that will define London 2012

Alex Chick

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The 100 metres - the ultimate expression of 'less is more'.

Like all tests of speed, you want it to finish as quickly as possible.

Unlike the others, its sheer brevity is what makes it so appealing.

Athletic endeavour in its purest form, reduced to an impossibly intense blast of bulging muscle and blurred feet.

Some people paid £2,000 for tickets to the Usain Bolt show - they will tell you their £207.68 per second represented value for money.

Bolt cemented his place among the Olympic legends, but this was not the coronation of Beijing, where he spent the last 20 metres slowing down, beating his chest.

This time he was meant to be vulnerable. Hampered by an injury and humbled by Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials.

Bolt had to face down the fastest 100m field ever assembled - before the race, many credible commentators predicted glory for Blake, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.

All three ran fast, but Bolt ran faster.

Gay's 9.80 was not enough for a medal. Seven finalists broke 10 seconds - the eighth, Asafa Powell, would have done but broke down injured.

Unless you are a biomechanician, there is not much race analysis you can do. Everybody gives 100 per cent for 100 metres. What could Blake have done differently? Run faster.

Instead you are just left to marvel at the spectacle, and savour your wonderfully brief encounter with sporting greatness.

The buzz of anticipation before the final was unlike anything I have felt at a sporting event.

Almost like a rollercoaster slowly reaching the top of its arc and preparing to plummet, there was the sure knowledge that we were in for sensory overload. 80,000 people knew something incredible was definitely going to happen, and it would happen in a matter of moments.

The crowd got the winner they wanted. Bolt is a rock star, perhaps sport's most famous face and a charismatic champion.

He was the only man capable of inciting the roars that have spurred on home athletes - Christine Ohuruogu's silver medal was tonight's moment of British bedlam, though the medal ceremonies for Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah caused quite a racket.

In a Games where football has melted away from prominence, we got a brief reminder of our national obsession when Martin Rooney took the blocks for his 400m semi-final and a chant echoed around the stadium: 'Rooney! Rooney! Rooney!' Like his football namesake, Rooney could not deliver on the biggest stage.

Likewise Oscar Pistorius, who ran a second slower in his semi-final than in the heat. Whether or not he should be allowed to compete (and I think he shouldn't), the fact that he can do what he does is little short of a miracle.

Back to the 100m, where Dwain Chambers, Adam Gemili and James Dasaolu all perished in the semi-finals.

Chambers was cheered noisily, while Justin Gatlin (who has also served a drugs ban) got booed - and had some idiot throw a bottle at him on the starting blocks.

But after Saturday night's medals orgy, this was a night for the Brits to sit down and just revel in excellence.

British medals are wonderful, but moments like tonight are the reason London should be proud to have the Olympics.

The world was watching as sporting history unfurled on our soil.

(Well, not quite - NBC treated US viewers to tape-delayed equestrian while saving the 100m for prime time. It seems they are the last people in the world to realise the internet exists.)

The images of Bolt crossing the line and celebrating as only he can are moments the world will treasure.

I just wish it had lasted a bit longer.


ACCESSIBILITY/FACILITIES: 8/10 - It's the big one in the Olympic Park. You can't miss it. It's sheer size makes getting to your seat a minor chore, however.

VIEW: 7/10 - The plurality of events in athletics makes it hard to take everything in. If you're in position A for the 100m, you're not going to see much of the triple jump. But that's the nature of the sport. And if you're at the back you might struggle a bit.

FANS: 9/10 - It was not as cacophonous an evening as Saturday, colleagues told me, but the sound created during the women's 400m and men's 100m finals was truly mighty.

SPECTACLE: 10/10 - It's the Olympic men's 100-metre final. Of course it's a 10.

X-FACTOR: 8/10 - A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Two minor gripes - the music during races (which has already been toned down), and the fact we saw some of last night's medal ceremonies and tomorrow they will get Bolt. Where's the logic in that?

TOTAL SCORE: 42/50 - iconic.

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