Birmingham successfully hosted the World Indoor Champs at the National Indoor Arena in March 2003: with Birchfield Harriers Ashia Hansen winning the Triple Jump and fellow Midlands star Marlon Devonish triumphant in the 200m Birmingham consolidated its status as the home of British Athletics.
The British team won 7 medals finishing 4th on the medals table with Daniel Caines – another Birchfield Harrier – winning two silvers in the 400m and 4x 400m and Kelly Holmes also winning Silver in the 1500m. Jamie Baulch (400m) and Jason Gardener (60m) were Bronze medallists. The most successful national team were arguably not the USA that headed the medal table but Sweden with 4 gold medals from the Kluft / Bergqvist / Holm / Olsson powerhouse squad that had emerged and brought so much delight to us all and especially our regular group of Swedish travelling fans. Interestingly, when Birmingham City Council were planning to build the NIA the inspection trip for a group of 15 councillors and officials to the 1987 Lievin European Indoors had been co-ordinated by David Barnett – so it was good to see the first major international Athletics championships, in what in its final plans had become a multi-use venue once it had opened in 1991, so well organised and full of excited fans for all sessions. Birmingham was rewarded for its ambition.
The summer took us to Florence for the European Cup and the delights of this wonderful city drew a large group to see the British Men and Women place 3rd / 4th respectively. Usually the British team produces a good number of individual event winners but with only Mark Lewis Francis, Chris Rawlinson and the Men’s 4x400m team triumphing this was, unfortunately, an indication of what was to lie ahead in Paris at the World Championships a few weeks later.
In the French capital the magnificent Carolina Kluft led the Swedish team to a 5 medals haul consolidating their growing success but the British team finished with just 4 medals, and that was later reduced to three following the DQ of the Men’s 4x100m team following Dwain Chambers ban. Kelly Holmes with Silver in the 800m plus Darren Campbell (100m) and Hayley Tullett (1500m) were the sole medallists. With the attraction and accessibility of Paris T&FT had a very large number of clients at the event but it was a very frustrating event in so many respects.
The major story early in the event had been the outrageous “performance” of the USA’s John Drummond in refusing to leave the track after he was DQ-ed in the 100m. His childish behaviour had an unexpected outcome for T&FT when the IAAF decided to hold a special hearing the following afternoon at which it was decided to ban him from the championships. This unexpected news story meant that the pre-arranged BBC coverage of the T&FT Supporters Welcome Party on a spacious Seine Lunch Cruise at which recently retired Colin Jackson was to be present as the star guest was cancelled: the BBC sent Colin and their one roving camera team to cover the John Drummond trial that afternoon instead. As we all know the IAAF went on to change the false start rule and, of course, our T&FT Supporters Party went ahead with great food and drink, a cancan dance troupe and live music but sadly without Colin Jackson – even the best laid plans can go wrong and a sad case of “what might have been”.