The Night of the 10,000m PBs has the perfect formula to engage the masses

European 10,000m Cup
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In the official programme for the Night of the 10,000 PBs in north-west London on Saturday (19), European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen talked of the future of the sport ahead of the event which incorporated the European 10,000m Cup.

“It’s a fact that interest for the 10,000m has gone down,” said Hansen. “We are not really happy with that. So, we heard about the Night of the 10,000m PBs and, of course, we wanted to support and help it.

“I want to change things, make athletics more fun, make it more attractive. First of all for the athletes. We have to have the athletes. We have no sport without athletes. And also for the spectators. We have to make them want to come back.”

The smile across his face during an evening to remember on Saturday showed his words were bearing fruit very quickly.

From high up on Hampstead Heath, the view down on the track at Parliament Hill, the home of Highgate Harriers Athletics Club, was spectacular.

The banks to watch proceedings unfold from one side were packed. Not just with runners and coaches but with families there to watch the athletics and enjoy the entertainment. Even superstars from other sports, such as five-times snooker world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, himself a good club-level athlete.

The noise was immense, with the crowd treated to nine hours of non-stop entertainment, with school relay races kicking off the occasion in the early afternoon to the finale of the day, the men’s European 10,000m Cup and that brilliant finish which saw Germany’s Richard Ringer snatch victory.

During the afternoon, as the sun shone brightly without a cloud in the clear blue sky. There was extra fun, from a band of drummers to a flypast from RAF Typhoon jets to street bike entertainers and fire jugglers.

At 6pm, the marquee which stretched across the middle part of the home straight - runners had the unique experience of being under cover and at a similar point on the back straight where the crowds gathered on the track to watch from lane three – Hansen, 2014 European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey and teammate and marathoner Alyson Dixon took part in a question and answer session, which was packed 30 deep will the crowd intently looking on and listening.

All areas of the sport was covered but the future was on show all around. This was athletics for the masses, only it was not a marathon or a big street race. It was on the track.

As Mourad Amdouni, the Frenchman who finished second to Ringer, said: “It was a very good organisation and a very good meeting.”

The two main races of the evening, the men’s and women’s European 10,000m Cup A races, lived up to all expectations to once more show that this actual competition is so important to those with the big championships on their mind later in the year.

It falls at the perfect moment in the calendar – to test your race sharpness along with the chance to win a medal, with enough time to recover for the big event in August.

This year, of course, it will be the first multi-sports European Championships in Berlin in conjunction with Glasgow and there is no doubt many of those who filled the top positions will be back hunting for glory again.