The face chosen to represent London in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games is African. Three British champion African heritage--Christine Ohuruogu (Nigerian descent), Mo Farah (Somalia) and Phillips Idowu (Nigeria)--are being featured prominently in the publicity for the most prestigious international sports competition to be hosted by London since the Olympic Games were last held in the city in 1948 Clayton Goodwin reports.
IT IS A COMMENTARY ON, AND A TESTIMONY TO, the changing face of London over the last few years. Africans have followed the pattern of previous immigrants--West Indians, Asians, Jews, Huguenots--in settling in those boroughs of eastern London in which the main track and field events of next years Olympics will be held.
World visitors will see the many thriving African businesses in vibrant communities as they travel through East London to the stadium.
Over the next year, too, the world will follow the performances of the three British champion athletes of African descent, Christine Ohuruogu (Nigeria), Mo Farah (Somalia) and Phillips Idowu (Nigeria), and a good number more with their family roots in Africa and the Caribbean, in the build-up to the big occasion.
The achievements of Ohuruogu and Idowu, who have won world championship gold medals already, and Farah, whose progress over the last few months has been outstanding, tell the story of contemporary athletics in the United Kingdom. That is not to say that they are certain or even favourites to win in a year's time and, a lot can still happen over this summer and the beginning of the next.
Nevertheless these three athletes are deemed to represent the best of London as of today. It is time to look at them in greater detail.
Phillips Idowu, whose duel for the triple-jump with Teddy Tamgho, the French African, is expected to be one of the highlights of the Games, has a very good chance of winning a gold medal. It is jeopardised only by a possible lack of competitive edge through missing some recent major international competitions. As a World, World Indoor, and Commonwealth Games champion with a silver medal from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Idowu has the form to succeed and needs only to win in London 2012 to have a complete set of gold medals for every major international event.
Phillips Olaosebikan Idowu was born to Nigerian parents in Hackney, North London, on 30 September 1978. He is recognised easily by his perceived eccentricities in presentation, variety of hair colours and facial piercings.
He describes himself as "the clean-cut black guy who used to dye his hair all those crazy colours and who has now got studs". The support of a large, enthusiastic home crowd will boost his chances, as he thrives on the "big occasion'.
Phillips made his mark initially by winning the English Schools Championship in 1997 and gained his first major success with silver in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Such is the fickleness of fortune, however, that Idowu missed the whole of the 2003 season through knee injury and crashed out of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens with three no-jumps. He had to start his climb to the top all over again. That he achieved by winning gold in both the 2006...