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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Cumbrian man will be chief starter at London 2012 Olympics

Thee man who fired the gun which powered Usain Bolt into the history books as the fastest man on the planet will say ‘on your marks’ to the Jamaican superstar at next year’s Olympic Games.

Alan Bell photo
Alan Bell

Alan Bell is celebrating the greatest moment in his career as an athletics official after being appointed chief starter at the London Olympics.

Bell, 60, who lives in Wetheral, near Carlisle, will be in charge of every race from the 100m heats to the marathon.

All eyes will be on him and Bolt when he fires the starting gun for the 100m when the sprinter defends his Olympic crown.

Bell was the starter when ‘Lightning Bolt’ scorched 100 metres of track in an astonishing 9.58 seconds in 2009.

Eighty-five thousand people packed the stadium for the World Championship final in Berlin with another 1.2 billion watching around the world.

Bell, who will be reunited with Bolt at this year’s World Championships in Korea in August, said: “By the time I get to London I will have started a few big events but the 2012 Olympics is very special because it’s in my home country.

“I will be start co-ordinator in London so I will be completely in charge and say who starts what.

“I will start the pressurised events and I will also have a seat-in-a-million as I’ll get to start the 100m final.”

Bell, who is regarded by many as the best starter in the world, will officiate at this weekend’s European Cup final in Stockholm.

In his youth he was a promising high jumper with an impressive personal best of 2.03 metres.

But his career ended through injury when he was in his mid-20s when he snapped his achilles tendon while taking off for a jump.

He then turned to officiating at athletics meetings at Gateshead International Stadium in his native North East, rising through the ranks until he was appointed by the IAAF – the governing body of world athletics.

Four years ago the IAAF appointed an international starters’ panel to standardise and improve starting at global events. UK Athletics nominated Alan – as did the world’s elite athletes.

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