A little under three weeks from now the Gateshead International Stadium will live up to its name as of old when it hosts the opening Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season.
Once the scheduled event in the Moroccan capital of Rabat had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns, the decision to switch it to this large town on the southern bank of the River Tyne in the north-east of England was recompense for the opportunity that COVID-19 had wrecked in 2020.
Gateshead was all set to host its first Diamond League meeting since the first year of that series in 2010 until the pandemic deemed otherwise.
When the 2021 Diamond League programme was announced this year, only one slot was available for Britain and that was the annual Anniversary Games in the stadium that hosted athletics at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
But Rabat’s loss was Gateshead’s gain. And if UK Athletics is unsuccessful in resisting the announcement by the London Legacy Development Corporation that the event will be too costly if it is staged in London this year, who knows, there could be a Gateshead double-header of May 23 and July 13.
While that is a relatively unlikely prospect, the north-eastern bastion of athletics can at least look ahead with excitement to a meeting this month that is due to feature, among others, two of Britain’s most celebrated athletes in world 200 metres champion Dina Asher-Smith and the man who won the 10,000 and 5,000 double at the London Stadium during the 2012 Olympics, Sir Mo Farah.
Over the years, Gateshead has been more celebrated for heroics in middle distance running rather than sprinting, starting with that epic, televised run on August 3, 1974 by Brendan Foster in which he christened the new track for which he had campaigned so tirelessly by setting a world 3,000m record there.
Roared on by a passionate and appreciative home crowd, the local hero, head rolling with the effort, drove himself over the line in 7min 35.2sec, taking more than two seconds off the previous mark set by Emiel Puttemans of Belgium two years earlier.
Albeit that it took place in the height of summer, Foster’s triumph occurred on a bright but cloudy day. It could have been a lot worse, weatherwise. And it often has been over the years.
But not, gloriously, in 2006.
I was covering the afternoon meeting on June 11 when, freakishly, temperatures reached 28C and the humidity rose to 40 per cent.
For the co-holder of the world record of 9.77, Asafa Powell, it must have felt more like his native Kingston, Jamaica, than Gateshead.
The 23-year-old revelled in the conditions, producing another of his massive starts before crossing the line with the appearance of ease. There was a momentary hush as spectators took in the figures showing on the digital clock by the finish - and then a whooping roar of appreciation. Powell had equalled the world record of 9.77sec. In Gateshead!
In fact, the stunned crowd had just watched the fastest official 100m time.
Taking into account thousandths of a second, Powell’s first clocking of 9.77, at Athens the previous year, had been rounded up from 9.768.
Justin Gatlin had joined him on 9.77 after running 9.766 in Doha a month before Powell’s Gateshead run - although this record would be expunged when the American, who had pulled out of meeting his Jamaican rival two weeks before the Gateshead meeting because it would be too cold (!), was retrospectively banned for a second doping offence.
Whatever, Powell’s time on that blazing day in the north-east was 9.763.
As he spoke to the press afterwards, Powell clutched a shiny memento in his right hand - the shell from the starter's pistol. "This is for today, and for Athens as well," he said.
Powell, indeed, said that he might have run even faster had he not slowed five metres from the line. "I've got to get out of that habit," he said. "I have not had much luck with the weather in my last couple of races, but today it was good and after 40m I felt like my old self. I felt like I was back."
He also repeated the prediction he had made earlier in the week that he could probably run 9.70 in the course of the season. "I'm going to keep to what I said. I'm going to go for it," he said. "Yes, it's possible. I'm not disappointed at not breaking the world record because it's only June. I've taken one big step towards it and now I've got to take one step further."
Powell was not successful in that ambition, although he ran 9.77 (9.762) in Zurich later that season and took the world record for himself in 2007 by running 9.74.
In 2008, at the Lausanne meeting, he got even closer to his prediction with his personal best of 9.72. By then, however, the train called Usain had swept past him…