Radical overhaul required to deal with image problem


Some 3000 ladies and gentlemen of Edinburgh society graced Powderhall for the inaugural Scottish Athletics Championships in 1883. The meeting was "greatly enhanced by the band of the Gordon Highlanders", said a contemporary report in the Glasgow Herald. Another opined this: "could develop into one of the events of the Edinburgh social season." The programme for the meeting (male athletes only) cost tuppence - 120 for one pound.

Officials were obsessed with upholding amateurism.

Fast forward to the 115th championships today, the last to be held at Scotstoun before it is refurbished at a cost of 14m. One copy of today's programme (both sexes) costs three pounds. The organisers are handing out prize money, to coaches as well as athletes.

Across the city, at Glasgow Green, a crowd of 50,000 is being talked up for the World Pipe band Championships. Athletics there (male only) will be a relative side show, but their highland games event will play to a far bigger crowd.

Marketing is everything, and the last track and field event to be held in Scotland before the GB team leaves for the World Championships in Japan later this month will do well to top 1000 spectators. This in the city that hopes to host the Commonwealth Games.

Radical repackaging is required. Perhaps these issues may surface at scottishathletics' annual meeting this morning. But clubs are purportedly more likely to question the sums they contribute in membership fees to the governing body, and precisely what they receive in return. Wailing like a trampled bagpipe may be the early order of the day.

When that dust clears there is the live action, and making a sharp exit from the Brodies-backed championships will be the only Scottish male athlete in the World team for Osaka.

Andrew Lemoncello, who runs the steeplechase in Japan, is in action in the opening event today at 1pm, defending the 5000m title.

The Fife athlete already has two national 'chase titles, and had entered the 1500m for the first time. "Then I realised the final was just 40 minutes before my flight on the first leg of my journey to the British team holding camp in Macau. So I switched," he said. "I'm using it as a training session. I'll sit in, and run the last 3000m hard."

After a block of intensive training, and duty as a silver service waiter in St Andrews, he is pretty tired, and says not to expect anything dramatic.

Christine Ohuruogu returns after a doping conviction before heading for Japan, and is badly in need of a confidence accelerant. When she won Commonwealth 400m gold in Melbourne she beat reigning Olympic and World champion, Tonique Darling. Now the Londoner will be under intense scrutiny to see if she still has it after a year in limbo. And she can expect to see doping control officers at every step.

But the fastest sight over one lap will be Alleyne Francique. The man from Grenada won the world indoor title in 2004 and 2007. This week he ran his best this season, 45.36secs in Stockholm. This is well inside the Scottish championship record, but he was merely a bit player in Sweden as Jeremy Wariner ran the sixth fastest time ever, 43.50.

If domestic records are to fall today, first choice is the javelin with 19-year-old James Camp-bell just 18 centimetres short of the national mark. The native best in men's one-lap hurdles is also under threat. Pitreavie's Francis Smith has Richard McDonald's 51.07 in his sights.

In the inaugural champion-ships, rugby and football players made an impact.

Inter-national rugby forward William Peterkin won the 100 and 440 yards (10.5 and 51.75) and another rugby star, Don Wauchope, was runner-up in the hurdles. Tom Moffat came home from Montreal to win the half mile in 2min 00.75sec, only record of the day, and a time beaten only eight times in the next half a century. A time five seconds quicker is unlikely to qualify for tomorrow's final.

But two of Britain's best shot-putters, Carl Myerscough and Scott Rider, will be at Glasgow Green today, rather than at Scotstoun. It prompts the question: after 124 years, have the amateurs got it right yet?

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Just here proffering my pearls to swine, my throat to wolves and my trousers to the flagpole.