Inspiring message of Olympic starter

Alan Bell talking to pupils at the Tower Ballroom.
Alan Bell talking to pupils at the Tower Ballroom.
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ALAN Bell is no ordinary volunteer, for his role as a top athletics official regularly puts him in the global spotlight.

In 2011 he was the man who disqualified superstar Usain Bolt from the world 100 metres final for a false start.

Alan, who was also the chief starter at the London Olypmics and Paralympics, was in Blackpool yesterday hoping to inspire a generation of new volunteers.

He spoke to secondary schools pupils who had gathered in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom about his own experiences.

He told The Gazette: “I have had high profile and amazingly important jobs around the world in my sport, but I am a volunteer.

“I have come home from the world championships in Korea on a Sunday, and then been running a junior event in Carlisle where I live.

“My involvement came about after I had been an international standard high jumper, but injury ended by career so my club asked me if I could help out and start the kids races.

“I never imagined 40 years later I would be chief starter at the Olympic Games in my own country.

“Some of the kids here today will have ambitions in sport but they might never get to be the next Tom Ince or Shelly Woods - but they can be an official or an administrator.”

Recalling the aftermath of Bolt’s disqualification, Alan says the worst bit was coming face to face with the runner’s mum.

He said: “Thankfully she was fantastic, and she said ‘he made a mistake.’

“The world sees Usain Bolt as a great performer and larger than life, but he is a very balanced person.”

Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for schools at Blackpool Council which organised the event, said: “Volunteering can be a tremendously rewarding experience, as the games makers and officials at London 2012 showed.”

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