By Mike Rowbottom

Usain_Bolt_4x100m_relay_Beijing_2008February 15 - The athletics schedule for the London 2012 Games has bucked tradition by making the men's sprint relay the final action on the track rather than the event with which Olympics and major athletics championships traditionally sign off - the men's 4x400 metres relay.

It is a clear attempt to showcase what organisers hope will be a third gold medal performance from Usain Bolt, the 100 and 200m champion from Beijing who earned a third Olympic title on the third leg of the sprint relay as his colleague Asafa Powell anchored the Jamaican team to a world record time of 37.10sec.

Bolt will have the opportunity to defend his Olympic 100m title on the third day of athletics competition, according to the sport's timetable which was released today.

A race that has always been regarded as one of the blue riband events of any Games is scheduled at the end of the programme on Sunday, August 5 at 21.50.

Jamaica's double world record holder would then have four days before a defence of the 200m title he won in Beijing - that is planned for 20.55 on the evening of August 9.

The heptathlon, in which Jessica Ennis hopes to make a big impact having already won the world and European titles, takes place on the first two days of the athletics programme, culminating in the 800m at 20.35 on Saturday, August 4.

Paula Radcliffe's hopes of achieving Olympic success on the streets of the city where she set her world marathon record in 2003 will be realised or not on the morning before Bolt's 100m final, with the women's marathon scheduled to start over its unique Olympic course at 11.00.

The men's shot put field will contend the first athletics medal of the Games, with their final timed at 20.30 on the evening of day one – Friday, August 3.

The event was won at Beijing in 2008 by Poland's Tomasz Majewski (pictured). 


The first female to earn a 2012 athletics medal will be a 10,000m runner, with the final due to start at 21.25 on the first day of action.

The final athletics action will be the men's marathon, at 11.00 on Sunday, August 12 – the day of the Closing Ceremony.

The timetable, which was approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) IAAF Council at its meeting in Monaco last November, fits into the general ethos of the on-going restructuring of the sport's major competition programme to increase its appeal to the world's television audience, especially to younger viewers.

At the core of the planning has been the requirement to improve the timing to better tell the story of each event.

Last year's three-day IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha  was the first to be transformed offering a day and a half of qualifications and heats, followed by two tightly packed evening sessions of exciting semi-finals and finals.

This summer's nine-day IAAF World Championships in Daegu has equally been designed for maximum impact with shorter evening sessions concentrated on finals.

There will be half a rest day in the athletics programme - the morning of Friday, August 10 is clear, before an evening of action that involves finals for the men's pole vault, women's hammer, women's 5000m, women's 1500m, the women's sprint relay and the men's 400m relay.

To see the final timetable click here

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