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
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.
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.
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
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."
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