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Owens remembered at world athletics

Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay will have Jesse Owens on their minds when the pair meet for a hyped 100 metres showdown at the world athletics championships on Saturday and Sunday. Owens famously won four gold medals in Berlin's Olympic stadium at the 1936 Games, establishing himself as one of the greatest athletes ever and ridiculing the aim of Germany's Nazi regime of using the Olympics to showcase its believed superiority of the Aryan race.

Now the Jamaican three-time Olympic champion Bolt and the American three-time world champion Gay take to the track at the first global athletics championship in the arena since Owens' heroics.

Jesse Owens runs to glory

"Jesse Owens is a hero of mine for many reasons," said Gay. "It will be very special to run in the same stadium."

Berlin's Sportsmuseum is currently staging an exhibition titled "Jesse Owens, a sports legend," while US athletics paid tribute to Owens at the trials for the worlds in June and the US Berlin team will compete with a special uniform bearing Owens' initials.

In addition, the long jump medals on August 22 will be distributed by Owens' granddaughter Marlene Dortch and Kai Long, the son of Owens' German 1936 rival Luz Long, whose advice helped Owens win the long jump gold.

The Olympic stadium was built 1934-1936 by Adolf Hitler's architect Werner March for the Games, with its shape resembling ancient arenas and an initial capacity of 100,000. A first renovation took place ahead of the 1974 football World Cup in West Germany, where due to the political situation at the time Berlin was not awarded the final.

But that happened three decades later when the Olympic stadium was brought up to modern standards ahead of the 2006 World Cup, with 240 million euros spent in the four-year project 2000-2004 to make it a state-of-the-art facility with 72,000 seats.

Captain Fabio Cannavaro lifted the World Cup trophy in the stadium in July 2006 after Italy won the final against France. The Olympic stadium is also the host of the German cup final and the home of Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin.

Hertha's wish to have the football pitch surrounded by a running track in its club colour blue was granted, giving the Berlin track a distinct and unique look.

Some 60,000 fans gathered there on June 14 for the ISTAF Golden League meet, but it remains unclear whether the stadium will also see top tier athletics in the future as ISTAF organizers have not joined the new Diamond League series which starts next year.

As a result, the world championships could be the last major athletics highlight in the German capital and its big arena for the time being.


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