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Berlin tracks on fire! Metu tackles Bolt, Gay, Asafa

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For nine days beginning from today, the German     capital city, Berlin will be agog as it plays host to several athletes and officials from all over the world including Nigeria which has University of Nigeria’s Obinna Metu as the pivot of her sprint team in the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

The frenzy may not be quite as big as at the 2006 football World Cup, when Berlin hosted several games including the final, but officials have made plenty of efforts to bring athletics with its stars like Usain Bolt or Ariane Friedrich to the people.

Jamaica had earlier threatened to drop star athlete and former world record holder in the 100m, Asafa Powell from her team, but with a late decision Wednesday to include him, Metu and his other compatriot, Olusoji Fasuba may have one more headache aside Bolt to contend with in their attempt to grab a world championship medal.

Fresh from his double victory in the 100m and 200m at the NNPC/Mobil track and field championship at the Abuja National Stadium, Metu said he is not afraid of the big names expected to feature in Berlin because “I’m just going there to do my thing and in athletics anything can happen.”
Powell and four other athletes, Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser (100m) and Melaine Walker (400m hurdles), had failed to show for national team training in Nuremberg. Team manager Ian Forbes identified the other athletes as hurdler Brigitte Foster-Hylton and sprinter Shericka Williams.
IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss said the world governing body put pressure on the Jamaican federation to change its mind because the exclusion of the six prominent athletes would reflect badly on the championship.

‘’We asked Jamaica to reconsider in the interest of sport,’’ Weiss said, while the manager of the affected atghletes Paul Doyle said, ‘’We are all relieved to have that news, it was all very unnecessary.’’ Continuing Weis said ‘’We didn’t like it. The world championships, that is our baby. We take care of our baby,’’ adding that it was the IAAF’s job to make sure nations field the strongest possible teams.

The championships begin today with a program that includes the opening heat of the 100 meters, where Powell is a medal contender behind fellow Jamaican and Olympic champion Bolt and defending world champion Tyson Gay.

Interestingly the vast majority of the 47 events at this year’s championships will be held in the iconic Olympic Stadium where Jesse Owens famously won four gold medals at the politically charged 1936 Olympics. This feat is what Olympic 100m and 200m champion, Bolt is eyeing to achieve.

But the walks and the marathons will take place downtown against the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate, with big crowds expected.

Also situated there is the so-called KulturStadion, a big meeting place for fans with concerts planned and famous former athletes like Maurice Greene or Michael Johnson to visit.
‘I am convinced that the Berlin people will be very good hosts like at the football World Cup. Athletes and visitors from around the world will experience an unforgettable time here,’ Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit told German Press Agency dpa.
Berlin will be measured by the party atmosphere of the World Cup and that from the first athletics worlds in Germany, 1993 in Stuttgart.

Wowereit’s senate has provided some 20 million euros for the overall championship budget of 44 million euros, with the rest to be balanced by sponsor income and ticket sales.
More than 300,000 of the 500,000 tickets have been sold, and everyone is convinced that the so far indifferent mood of the locals will change dramatically once the competition gets underway.
Success from the ailing German team led by the high jump contender Ariane Friedrich would further boost the atmosphere.

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