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.
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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."