The Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships came to life tonight with a moving Opening Ceremony that paid tribute to those affected by the terrorist attack in Breitscheidplatz, Berlin in December 2016 and called for the power of sport to help build a more united Europe.
The ceremony was held in the Generali Arena inside the Breitscheidplatz, which will also act as the finish line for the marathon and walking events, as well as the stage for the men’s shot put qualification and nightly victory ceremonies – all in the shadow of the iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
After the sold-out crowd helped with the countdown to start the proceedings, the show got under way with a video of the history and iconic landmarks of Berlin.
MCs Verena Wriedt and Matthias Killing kept the ceremony running smoothly throughout, while German track and field legends Heike Drechsler and Sebastian Bayer were on hand to present the European Championship medals and trophy, the latter of which will be awarded for the first time to the nation that finishes the seven-sport Championships at the top of the medal standings. Co-host of the multi-sport event Glasgow is staging six sports: aquatics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon, with Berlin staging the athletics.
Addressing the crowd in English and German, European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen said: “These championships mark the beginning of a new era in the organisation of sports events, as they are the centrepiece of the first ever multi-sport European Championships, which links Berlin with Glasgow.
“With your engagement,” he continued, “all of Berlin will become a family of athletics – sharing the thrills, the victories and the satisfaction of what we like to call ‘your sport for life.’”
Singer Michael Schulte treated the audience to a performance of his 2018 Eurovision entry “You Let Me Walk Alone,” which led him to a fourth-place finish in the continental song contest.
Schulte was followed by a unique parade of nations that saw one athlete from each of the 50 participating nations jog into the arena through an honour guard of Berlin 2018 volunteers holding flags from each country. The athletes then linked arms to symbolize a friendly, open and united Europe. They were joined by 10 officials and 10 members of the local organising committee.
Pop singer Linda Teodosiu, meanwhile, provided a beautiful acapella version of the German national anthem.
Governing Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller welcomed the athletes to the city that is often referred to as a Sports Metropolis. He also called for the power of sport to help build bridges rather than walls across Europe and beyond. “A little more than a year and a half ago, on 19 December 2016, Breitscheidplatz was the scene of a terrorist attack,” he said. “This horrific act brought home to us once again that our freedom is under threat. As a peaceful venue for the European Athletics Championships, Breitscheidplatz will send a clear message in support of international understanding and European unity. That is something we can all work for every day.”
Speeches were also given by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and local organising committee President Dr. Clemens Prokop.
Felix Räuber, best known for his work with the band Polarkreis 18, performed a riveting rendition of his song “Wall,” which explores the theme of overcoming physical and psychological barriers, before a spectacular fireworks display brought the show to a dramatic conclusion.
The Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships will see 1,572 athletes from 50 countries compete in 48 disciplines from 7-12 August.