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The word on the street


IT IS HARD to beat street athletics as a concept. Athletes enjoy it and thousands of fans can watch for free, up close and personal, as the No.1 Olympic sport is brought to their doorstep.

Given this, it is a growing area and the best-known events are the CityGames meetings organised by The Great Run Company and televised live on BBC. In 2009, the CityGames made a name for itself when Usain Bolt stormed through Manchester and earlier this year the city's Deansgate and Albert Square saw another feast of track and field.

When it came to British stars, Greg Rutherford was the top performer as he leapt 8.20m to win the long jump.

Internationally, Dafne Schippers delighted the crowd with a 100m victory as the Dutch athlete showed the kind of pace that brought her the world 200m title in 2015.

The story of the meeting, though, was Kim Collins. Before the meeting, all the talk had surrounded the potential of world indoor champion Trayvon Bromell, but the 40-year-old Collins defied his advancing years to beat an American who is half his age over 100m.

Amazingly, it came 14 years after Collins won the Commonwealth 100m title a few miles down the road. "I wasn't favourite on that occasion either,” he says of a night when he defeated, among others, the English trio of Dwain Chambers, Jason Gardener and Mark Lewis-Francis. "I enjoy being the underdog."

Collins, however, did not think his win was a turn-up. "It was no surprise," he said. "Your age does not matter when you are on the start line. I have been training for this and I know what my body is capable of “.

The Great City Games are currently staged twice a year - May and September, in Manchester and Newcastle (the latter with the title Great North City Games) on The Great Run weekends. Last month's event on the Newcastle quayside starred David Rudisha and Lynsey Sharp setting world best times at unusual distances. Around 25,000 spectators enjoyed a veritable feast, welcoming heroes back from Rio. Rutherford continued his domination of CityGames events, ending his season well before swapping his spikes for sequins.

Sebastian Coe, the IAAF president, is a big fan of this CityGames concept and The Great Run Company aims to take the concept overseas. BT used to sponsor The Great CityGames. More recently Co-op Bank came in as the title sponsor on an initial one-off deal for May 2016, with their home base in Manchester and a new look and relaunch for the Bank.

They really are tremendously exciting for both the TV viewer (several hours live on BBC) and particularly the live spectator, so British Athletics Supporters Club members are urged to take advantage of these free events which bookend each summer athletics season. Make a weekend of it: next year Manchester is on Friday May 26 - Bank holiday weekend-and Newcastle-Gateshead takes place on Saturday September 9.

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