From my track & field reporting career scrapbook comes this tribute, found just outside the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, to some of the fastest hands in history. Above is a cast of the 2000 Olympic 100 meters champion Maurice Greene. Yes, it is misspelled.
Brussels has hosted the Memorial Van Damme annually since 1977, one of the finest annual gatherings of track and field talent in the world. I’ve attended 11 of the past 13, most recently in 2012 where the highlight was Aries Merritt’s world record in the 110 meter hurdles.
But unless they were added prior to last September’s meet, you won’t find Merritt’s hand on the promenade, but you will walk across those of 2004 Olympic 100 meters champion Justin Gatlin, the world record holder in the women’s pole vault Yelena Isinbayeva, and Hicham El Guerrouj, the finest miler in history.
Located in the Belgian capital’s northwest Heysel area which also hosted the 1958 World’s Fair, the stadium was the site of the infamous Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 in which 39 people were killed and 600 injured when a wall collapsed just prior to the start of that year’s European Cup final.
It’s also the only venue where I saw the Village People perform live. But that’s another story.