LONDON, England ● Olympic Games chief starter Alan Bell revealed how a heart-to-heart with controversial World Cup referee Howard Webb has helped him during the countdown to the greatest moment of his career.
Bell will fire the starting gun for the highest profile events at this summer’s London Olympics, including the 100m and 400m when Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt will defend his gold medals.
All eyes will be on the 61-year-old athletics official, who lives in Wetheral, at the beginning of the races but he will be well prepared as he has experience of starting some of the most high-profile contests in world athletics.
Like Webb, who brandished a record 15 cards during the 2010 World Cup Final between Holland and Spain, Bell has been involved in dramatic flashpoints as he disqualified Bolt at last year’s World Championships in South Korea for a false start after the sprinter was out of the blocks way ahead of the field.
Webb was recently guest speaker at UK Athletics conference and later got together with Bell to discuss the demands of being top officials in their respective sports.
Bell said: “One of the interesting things we talked about was the pressure of a big crowd. There is nothing bigger than the World Championships with 80,000 in the stadium.
“But the pressure for Howard is that he’s completely in the public eye and in the thick of what’s happening on the pitch so he can’t hide.
“My job is to be as anonymous as possible so the athletes are the performers.
“If an athlete makes a mistake I have no choice but to chuck him out of the race because of the rules, where as Howard can stop the match and make a judgement.
“There was a bit of banter between us because I disqualified Usain Bolt and he should have showed Nigel De Jong a red card in the World Cup Final but didn’t.
“We talked about the qualities of being your own man and being prepared to make the right decision because it’s the right thing to do, while staying calm and not allowing what’s going on around you to influence you.”
Bell has already participated in a special warm-up for London when the British Universities Championships were staged in the Olympics stadium.
His final big event before the Olympics will be the English Schools Championships in Gateshead on July 6 and 7.