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London 2012: Alan Bell prepares to be Olympic starter

Category: England

Published: 26th Jan 2012 11:52:30

For one Cumbrian man the Olympic Games "is a dream come true".

Alan Bell will be the chief starter at London 2012. Originally from Chester le Street, County Durham, he now lives at Wetheral in Cumbria.

With millions of people watching on televisions around the globe, he will be in charge of the starting gun for the 100m final.

"A lot of people have a wish list, and this is pretty high up my list and I can fulfil it," he said.

The journey to the Olympic Games started by accident for Mr Bell, a former athlete.

Injured in his early 20s, his local Tyneside club encouraged him to keep involved and he moved into officiating.

The role of starter soon came his way as he oversaw children's races in Whitley Bay on the north-east coast of England.

Progressing through events and with his experience increasing, he became a member of the five-member International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Panel seven years ago.

"You regard yourself as one of the elite," he said.

"I've had two World Championship finals, nobody ever gets two World Cup finals in soccer, so I have been blessed there."

Composure is the key to starting a race, said Mr Bell, as no two races are the same.

"For 30 seconds before I fire a gun I have the best concentration span in the world.

"You have to do that to essentially, not only be antiseptic, but to be absolutely fair to all of the guys or women you have there under your scrutiny."

I went through all the procedures to check the decision was the right one and by that time [Bolt] had his vest off and he had his head in his hands”

Occasionally the role of the starter is thrust into the spotlight.

For Mr Bell this happened when he disqualified sprinter Usain Bolt in Daegu, South Korea, for 'jumping the gun' in August 2011.

He said: "I knew it was a false start. I went through all the procedures to check the decision was the right one and by that time he had his vest off and he had his head in his hands.

"He made the decision almost for us."

At the end of the meeting Mr Bell met Bolt's parents who had been sitting in the stands.

Mr Bell said he was worried about their reaction but the world record holder's mother made a beeline for Mr Bell and said: "He's a silly boy."

The next day Usain Bolt stormed to World 200m gold in the third fastest time of his life to put the nightmare of his 100m disqualification behind him.

At 60 years old and having the Olympics in your home country is, for Mr Bell, a dream come true.

"You can go through a lifetime in your sport, any sport, and the Olympics won't come to your home country.

"I've got the chance, it is coming to the United Kingdom.

"I am 60 years of age now so it would never happen again in my lifetime, so it's a dream come true.

"To do an Olympic Games for my own people, and be part of that, is really off the scale."

Before going to London for the Olympics, Mr Bell will officiate in March at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

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