A Silly Rule Change
5th Sep 2011
So Usain Bolt makes a false start and is disqualified from the final of the World Championships 100m. When I was a teenager the false start rule at athletics meets was fairly lenient. Each competitor was treated separately and allowed 2 (or was it even three) false starts before being disqualified. Sure, from this disrupted things to a degree, but that was all part of the spectacle. I remember Colin Jackson having the fastest reaction time in the world. We used to spend hours on the school bus with our digital watches double pressing the start / stop button on our stopwatches to see how small a time we could get. We weren’t even close to Jackson! Then they changed the rule so that, rather inexplicably, one false start put the whole field on a yellow card. The next person to flinch before the gun was immediately disqualified having shared the pressure of the initial false start. Seemed very unfair to me. Then last year they changed it again. This time to a one strike and you are out situation. Outrageous in my opinion. In a stadium full of 50,000 people and probably upwards of 50,000 cameras, the chances of somebody hearing something that sets them off early has to be fairly high. And so it was for Bolt last week. He’s been grown up enough not to blame anybody else, but who’d have thought any the worse of him if he had? Not me. In some ways, with the Olympics a year away Bolt has now inadvertently piled even more pressure on himself to do something special in London. The fact that the World Champs happen every two years somewhat demeans the pressure compared with the Olympics, but I am sure that there are plenty of spectators who paid very good money to watch the prime event last week who are not happy with the current rules. Are the IAAF going to review the rule change? In much the same way as Sepp Blatter made a fool of himself by blankly refusing to address goal line technology within football, the IAAF are currently going to great lengths to say that they are not going to look at the rule, but I have no doubt that they will do before next Summer. With people paying £750 a pop to watch the biggest event at the Olympics, the organisers simply cannot afford to let it happen again. I rather suspect that they were using the Worlds as a trial run and that they never would have introduced such a Draconian rule one year before an Olympic Games. One comment interested me and that was the IAAFs justification for not addressing the rule – it would mean that one person is bigger than his sport and that can’t be the case. In this case more than any other I think that one person really is bigger than his sport. In the space of some 58 seconds he has re-written the history of sport like never before and perhaps like never again. Me, I can’t afford the £750 for next summer, but you can bet that I will be one of the billions around the world watching to see if he can get any closer to 9 seconds!