Aviva London Grand Prix: My Picks for Best races, by Larry Eder


The Aviva London Grand Prix is an example of innovation and the need in our sport, to constantly evolve. In 2008, the meeting, a fixture on the UK circuit since 1999, was moved to a two day format. It was so wildly successful that the format was kept for 2009, a year where many of the top clashes will give the sporting public their last glimpse of elite athletes before the World Championships in Berlin, only three weeks away!

As a track publisher, blogger and fan, seeing Dayron Robles, the great Cuban hurdler and 2008 gold medalist, in the lobby, talking with his coach and agent, seeing Blanka Vlasic, the great high jumper and World Champion, speaking to Kerron Clement, the defending world champion in the 400 meter intermediate hurdles, are what bring excitement to the event.


Blanka Vlasic, jumping in Beijing, August 2008, photo by Photorun.net.

The two day format will be interesting this year as well for the importance of the 4 x 100 meter relays for many of the countries. The US has their sprinters here, as does Jamaica, Canada and many others....

RBR will cover the meet, event by event, with a synopsis after the meet, plus we will do live updates via twitter ( easy to sign up, go to twitter.com, and follow runblogrun, it is that simple).

Congrats on the team from UK athletics, Fast Track and the BBC for putting on such a tremendous meet! And do not forget to watch the meet LIVE on Universal NBC! Also a warm thanks to Aviva, McCain, adidas, and the other sponsors of the Aviva London Grand Prix. Supporting athletics in this time is a smart branding strategy, and without our major sponsors, the sport, at this level, would not exist.

I am finishing up with some of my favorite events for the weekend:

One of the greatest sports stories of 2009 should be the resurrection of Dwight Phillips as the pre eminent long jumper in the world. Dwight, working with his agent, Paul Doyle, and now Loren Seagrave, has the longest jump in the world-28-7 1/2, or 8.74m, since Mike Powell did his world record jump in 1991! Phillips has followed that up with defeating Irving Saldino, the Panamanian long jumper who has won both Osaka and Beijing. Watch Phillips this weekend!


Dwight Phillips with his big jump at the Nike Pre Classic, June 7, 2009, by Photorun.net.

The men's 5,000 meters features Mo Farah, the UK's top male long distance runner. His season has gone well, but this race is the tough one. Mo is trying to break the 13:00.4 record of one David Moorcroft, who set this British record way back in 1982, when he broke Henry Rono's then world record! The field is good and the weather should be about perfect. To see the amazing story of Moorcroft's great race, make sure you watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShFi3Ika9-M. Better yet, get Bud Greenspan's seminal, Sixteen Days of Glory and see the entire celebration of the 2004 Olympics.

The men's mile is part of a great tradition in England. The Elmsley Carr Mile has featured some of the great milers of the past fifty years. There is a very special book
where the entrants sign their names on the left page, and the winner signs his name on the right page. The Carr family has supported the award for many years, and heads up to Ian Stewart, UK endurance director, and Aviva series meet manager, who has worked very hard to keep the Carr mile, one of the great traditions in UK athletics, popular.

An early winner, Gordon Pirie, signed his name on the left, and then, before the race, signed his name on the right hand side as well! Ian Stewart won the race once, his brother, Peter, won the race twice, and so have most of Great Britian's great ones (with the exception of Steve Cram).


Lagat winning the 3,000 meters, Nike Pre Classic, June 7, 2009, courtesy of PhotoRunnet.

The sprints should both be fascinating. Tyson Gay is reported to have a tender hamstring, noted as being slight. It should be interested to see how he runs, how well he races over 200 meters. Remember, that Gay has run 9.77 with a legal wind and 19.58 for 200 meters. Usain Bolt has run well this season, blowing away his competition, even with slow starts!

The women's 5,000 meters will tell us one major thing-is Tirunesh Dibaba ready to defend her Osaka titles? She ran in the Rbk Grand Prix, obviously not in shape, but has not raced since then. This will be a critical chance to see her fitness.

The story that will not go away is the Usain Bolt story. He is a global icon, and young people all over the world want to meet him. On my flight over from Chicago to Munich, Lufthansa showed Bolt racing his 9.79, jogging with young kids and doing several interviews for the Aviva Meet. Consider this; three of the top four most watched sporting events in 2008 were the Olympic opening ceremony, Olympic closing ceremony and Usain Bolt running! The global audience is there. Berlin should benefit from that, as has every meet that Bolt has graced this summer with his presence.


Usain Bolt, 200 meters, August 2008, Beijing, courtesy of Photorun.net.

There will be many more stories that we will observe and write about over the weekend. Thanks for joining me in my travels and watch for some comments this evening live on runblogrun.com and twitter.com. Should be after eleven in the morning in the Midwest.

For more on our sport, please click on www.runningnetwork.com

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