Large crowds took to the streets and squares of central Manchester to watch athletes in action at The Great City Games on Friday, just days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert in the city. Several leading British athletes, including 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning long jumper Greg Rutherford, took part in the event along with foreign stars such as Australian hurdler Sally Pearson. “They have come from all over the world, they know what it means to be in this city, especially in this troubled time,” said Britain’s Sydney Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis. Fans lined the streets close to the narrow track near Deansgate and the long jump area in Albert Square, just a few minutes walk from St Ann’s Square where a floral tribute has been created for the victims of the attack.
The event was a 15 minute walk away from the Manchester Arena where on Monday Salman Abedi killed 22 people, many of them children, attending a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande. The president of the sport’s governing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Sebastian Coe, said it had not been easy for organisers to decide the event should still take place. “The decision to go ahead with it is always a tough one, you have to weigh up security and all the other things… but ultimately it was very important that sport could be seen as part of that healing process,” said Coe.
“We don’t have all the answers but sport can help in that process and stand alongside the people of Manchester,” he added. Rutherford leapt 8.18 metres in his final jump to win ahead of Uruguay’s Emiliano Lasa (7.96m). Holly Bradshaw set a British women’s pole vault record of 4.80m. Pearson won the women’s 100 metres hurdles, while Greece’s Lykourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas triumphed in the 150 metres sprint with a personal best of 15.04 seconds.