A new look for Bislett

Nothing stays the same forever in sport.

POSTER BOY: Karsten Warholm is the new face of the Bislett Games.The Norwegian is not only local, he's also young, talented and very savvy about his image - a good fit for the new-look event. Picture: Getty images

POSTER BOY: Karsten Warholm is the new face of the Bislett Games.The Norwegian is not only local, he's also young, talented and very savvy about his image - a good fit for the new-look event. Picture: Getty images

This week saw the staging of one of the most iconic meetings on the world athletics circuit – the Bislett Games in Oslo.

But this edition was fundamentally different from any of those in the days when Australia’s Ron Clarke was setting world records there.

The same era when the then-meeting director, Arne Haukvik in his trademark straw hat would wander up and down the back straight megaphone in hand exalting the crowds packed into the then-tiny stands to raise their voices just once more for the stars.

For a start in 2017 there was no javelin throw and not one step was trodden in a race beyond 3000 metres – where spear chucking and distance running were once the bread and butter of this fine old meeting.

But there was no shortage of tradition in the passion shown by the Norwegian fans for their own. This is a country which excels in sport way above any per head of population analysis.

Whilst most of that success comes in traditional winter Olympic sports, it also does all right in track and field and other summer pursuits. And there is no shortage of awareness when it comes to its sports-obsessed fans.

Thursday night was a changing of the guard but the locals were no less enthusiastic than they would have been about embracing an established star.

Karsten Warholm is exactly what track and field needs. A rising talent from a European nation who not only excels in what he does on the track but is savvy about marketing both himself and his sport.

If he was nervous about being the pin-up boy of Bislett’s 2017 promotional campaign, taking on Olympic champion Kerron Clement or targetting the national record when he arrived at the start line for the 400m hurdles, he didn’t reveal any of it.

He was the complete showman – plenty of fan engagement without for one minute looking remotely conceited.

Just as well perhaps as, after a superb victory in 48.25, he had nothing left for post-race celebrations – making his arrival on the world stage all that little more special.

And then there was the small matter of Jakob Ingebrigtsen. He’s not 17 until September but he ran 3.56.29 for the mile – now there’s something that’s really changed since the sporting world’s love affair with breaking four minutes for the distance 60 years ago.

The Dream Mile was once a major drawcard for the Norway games, but this too has undergone a change. In 2017 it was run as an under 20 event causing huge controversy.

The Dream Mile was once a major drawcard for the Norway games, but this too has undergone a change. In 2017 it was run as an under 20 event causing huge controversy.

Yet there is still something special about cracking that barrier – and especially so if you are just 16.

We often mull over the phenomenon of sporting genetics in the cricket and the Australian football codes. But this little tale is just as remarkable.

Jakob’s older brothers, Henrik and Filip are world class runners – and all three are in the same events.

And don’t be surprised that the viking horn-wearing locals are a tad happy about that.

There was huge controversy before the race, which was run as an under 20 event, because the “Dream Mile” had been a signature event at Bislett for years.

But the loss of a twenty-year major meet sponsor which had a particular association with that race meant a re-jig of many things was in order.

But it wasn’t the only statement made by an always-innovative meet. Athletes and guests journeyed from the meet hotel to the stadium in an eco-friendly tram.

The pre-meet parade of champions was still led by a superstar, the legendary Edwin Moses (channelling Warholm’s later exploits) but he was followed by a hydrogen garbage truck and an electric street bus, complete with Crown Prince Haakon.

The aim from the organisers was to be the world’s first zero emissions athletics meet.

Yet for the absolute traditionalists there was plenty to talk about – not just the usual excellent results but some technical controversies that made social media buzz – not the least when Nigerian Blessing Okagbare’s pony tail wig dislodged into the sand as she landed in the long jump.