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On July 13 and 14, most of the principals in the Oslo mile gathered at the British championships at Crystal Palace track, London. Coghlan reached his season's goal in style by winning the 5,000 meters with a personal record of 13:23.6. He outkicked such worthies as Mike McLeod of England, Rod Dixon of New Zealand and world-record holder Henry Rono. Coe dropped down to the 400 meters and won his heat in 46.95; the next day he placed second in the final behind the Sudan's Kasheef Hassan in 46.87. "I wasn't too pleased with that," he says. Later in the year he would run a 45.5 in anchoring Britain's European Cup 1,600-meter-relay team.
Steve Scott outlasted John Walker in the 800 meters, 1:47.4 to 1:47.6. Ovett toyed with the 1,500-meter field, sprinting from last to first around the final turn and coasting in ahead of Williamson and Robson. Afterward, during an interview with the BBC, Ovett lauded the strength of British miling, asking, "Why should we have to go over to Norway? The best milers in the world are British. Let the rest of the world come to us."
"After that he felt he couldn't go to Oslo," says Williamson. Ovett, out on a limb, cut it off by saying he had nothing to prove, that whoever won in Norway would have "a hollow victory" without having beaten him. The rest of the milers, in the main combative men beneath composed exteriors, didn't take such words lightly. As they went to Oslo, they began to conceive of the shape the Golden Mile might take, and there grew among them the unspoken conviction that it would be fast.
The athletes' lodgings in Oslo were to the north of the city, in the Panorama Sommerhotell, beside tranquil Sognsvatn Lake. The 1972 U.S. Olympic track team trained there. The buildings of glass and birch are spare and functional. Sawdust and sand trails run across a forest floor replete with huckleberry bushes and granite outcroppings and are used by runners and hikers in summer, cross-country skiers in winter. The city of Oslo spends $30 million a year in support of such facilities as well as over 400 sports clubs.
"The whole atmosphere of the place, the paths around the lake, the quaint cable car you took down to the town, the way you could sit on the wharf by the fjord and shell shrimp for lunch was relaxing and just distracting enough to be perfect," says Scott, who had run his best 1,500 meters (3:36.0) in Oslo in 1978. "It was fun to bring Kim [Votaw, now his wife] and be able to show her everything."
Scott's only worry was over his efforts to join the U.S. team in Moscow the following week for the Spartakiade Games. Despite repeatedly cabling the AAU office in Indianapolis and visiting the Soviet Embassy daily, he had yet to receive a visa.
Coe, who had flown with his father to Oslo from Manchester on July 15, ran through Frogner Park, where he was astounded by the size, number and compelling, unsparing humanity of the Gustav vigeiand sculptures. Later, cruising past the Norwegian girls sunbathing topless on Sognsvatn's shore, he slowed, "out of deference." At the hotel he was introduced to many of his opponents for the first time. "They struck me as one of the friendliest collections of people I've met, given what was to come later," he says.
One runner Coe knew and respected was Dixon of New Zealand. They discussed Ovett. "I don't know him at all well," said Coe. "He certainly seems to talk himself into a corner."
"He rather reminds me of the lift operator," said Dixon. "After he's reached the top, he'll have to come down, and then he'll meet all the people he was rude to on the way up."
There was a garden party for athletes and press the evening before the race at Haukvik's home on one of the wooded slopes of suburban Oslo. Over ham and strawberries, Haukvik badgered all the lesser names in turn. "He said, in a confiding manner, that this was a race they just couldn't put a rabbit in because the invitations were so scarce," says Masback. "He said, 'So the race is going to be a failure unless you lead.' I reacted violently, and he went to talk to someone else."