President Svein Arne Hansen described the upcoming Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships as the strongest ever.
The competition gets underway tomorrow and will involve seven reigning Olympic champions, 15 reigning world champions and 34 individual gold medallists from the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam across the six day competition.
“I think it’s the strongest championships we have ever seen,” Hansen said at the pre-event press conference held in the city’s Royal Porcelain Manufactory.
“Over the last year every athlete I talked to has been focusing on Berlin. That is the focus we want to have. We don’t have any prize money, we don’t have special privileges. But still the athletes come, and I think the Presidents in all the federations have done a marvellous job. I don’t think we are missing anyone of top quality other than through injury.”
These European Championships are part of a new multi-sport format that will take place every four years. They are linked in with six other sports currently holding their European Championships in Glasgow, from where President Hansen had just arrived.
“I was just now in Glasgow and I have heard from my friends around Europe that it has been big on TV. We have gone into this to get more spectators in the stadium in the Berlin, to get more TV viewers. I am sure that at the end it will be more from everybody.
“I am sure the sport-loving people in Germany will see that and will think, ‘let’s be a part of this. Let’s go to the stadium and enjoy it.’ I think this format has come to stay. And there will be no championships in this format in future that will be without athletics.
“Berlin is ready. I was elected three years and some months ago, and I think what I’ve been looking forward most to in those three years is these championships. It’s a really, really special place to be. We have the sporting history in this city – I’ve seen so many world records, I’ve seen the World Championships here. European Athletics knows that in the hands of the Berlin 2018 CEO Frank Kowalski and his team it will be a great championships.
“We are so proud that we are bringing every top athlete in European Athletics to compete in these championships. That is going to secure the success of this event. And I also want to thank all the partners – EBU, SPAR and the other sponsors who are supporting us.”
Christian Gäbler, Head of the Berlin Senate Chancellery, said Berlin wanted “to mirror the success” of the World Championships in 2009. “We had the big Usain Bolt show back then and we want now to have the same shows this year. Great performances are going to be seen in the Olympic Stadium,” he said.
A ‘European Mile’ area has been installed in the Breitscheidplatz in the centre of the city to act as a finish-line for the marathon and race walking events. It will also stage the men’s shot put qualification tomorrow evening and nightly victory ceremonies, all of which will take place in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
"Berlin is a sports metropolis, not only of Germany but also of Europe,” Gäbler added. “The European Mile sets, together with Glasgow, a single event that stands for the European bond that we want to create.
“Of course the Breitscheidplatz is the venue where the terrorist attack happened in 2016, but we want to send a signal and show that we will not bow down to those who want to destroy our society.
“Of course we hope that the European focus is on our city and this event. This can already be seen in Glasgow – many pictures of the city are now going around the world. We are so happy that so many people will be coming to our city in the next week. We want to strengthen athletics as a sport, to make it attractive to everyone.
Kowalski echoed Hansen’s assertion that Berlin was ready for the Championships. “We have found new ways, especially regarding marketing. But now only sports performance is what counts. It is show time. We have created the framework and now we are happy to set off the start signal.
“We want to write history with the way that we have created these European Athletics Championships. We do not want the European Mile to just be a side event. We want it to be the second heart of the Olympic Stadium.
“So far we have sold 270,000 tickets. This is a pre-sale that no other European Athletics Championships has accomplished before, but we have a very big stadium that needs to be filled so we have to keep up the good work,” he said.