EMIRATES ARENA Athletes pledge to fast track a return to Glasgow, writes Susan Swarbrick
As far as curtain raisers go, it didn't disappoint. The Emirates Arena in Glasgow was given a resounding stamp of approval following its first outing on a global stage at the British Athletics International Match on Saturday.
A number of records fell as many of the world's elite competed at the £113m venue which has taken over from the Kelvin Hall, the previous host which has been home to the annual indoor match since 1988. And they'll be back.
With each successful competitor came praise and plaudits, including that from Dai Greene, the 400 metres hurdles world champion who toppled Ikem Billy's 28-year-old British indoor 600m flat record. Greene ran 1:16.22 in front of a 5000-strong sell-out crowd to usurp Billy's time of 1:17.6 that has stood for almost three decades. Duane Soloman (USA) won the event in 1:15.70 to claim an all-comers' record.
"The track was very nice, the atmosphere was good and the warm-up area was brilliant," said Greene. "I'm sure we will have some good competitions here. I'm going to have to come back and defend the record next year now, with a track that fast, I would be happy to."
Andrew Osagie, who finished third, added: "The venue is spectacular, and the warm-up area, second to none."
Kim Collins, a former 100m world champion of St Kitts and Nevis, was equally impressed. A regular at the Kelvin Hall, the Emirates Arena track was much more to his liking. "It is a lot less steep for the 200m than at the Kelvin Hall which helped a lot. The track here is fast. At Kelvin Hall, you have to come down fast and then climb up a wall which makes it difficult – I look forward to next year."
Britain's Dwain Chambers, who pipped Collins to win the 60m, said: "Leading up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, I think this is a fantastic start. There is still some uncertainty regarding my position [for Commonwealth Games selection], but I'm going to take it week by week, month by month. If the cards fall right and providing I qualify I will be there. I haven't been to Hampden which will be hosting the athletics events in 2014, but the crowd here was fantastic."
Paralympic medallist Stefanie Reid, who claimed victory in the women's F44/46 long jump, said she was won over within minutes of stepping out to compete. "I don't normally compete indoor," she said. "The reason I liked this is because it's intimate; the size of the arena made me really aggressive on the runway. The track is fast and the sand was beautiful – you could sunbathe in that kind of sand."
Another already fond of the place is Allan Smith, the Scottish high jumper. Having set a new native record of 2.22m a fortnight ago at the Scottish Universities and Colleges Championships, he surpassed that on Saturday by jumping 2.23m to finish fourth overall in a field which included eventual winner Aleksey Dmitrik (Russia) and Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz (GB), who took second.
"It's a good track," Grabarz said. "The home crowd gets behind you and that definitely helped a lot."
UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson looked forward to seeing more world-class meets in Glasgow. "I hope we do a lot more. There were some good performances from the Scottish athletes. I was impressed with youngsters, such as Allan Smith and Jade Nimmo, who came in at late notice. They were up against tough competition, so kudos to them."