Belgrade’s Kombank Arena, host to the 34th European Athletics Indoor Championships, is the best indoor facility that European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen has ever seen, he announced today on the eve of the competition.
“I have been to every European and World Indoor Championships since the early 1980s, the only one I missed was the World Indoors in Maebashi in 1999, and this is the best, the most fantastic facility I have ever seen,” Hansen told media at the Official Press Conference in Belgrade’s City Hall.
“Now we have to see if the track is fast and as good as it looks. But you can be proud in Belgrade of the things you have achieved here.”
Belgrade’s Mayor, Sinisa Mali, added that hosting a successful European Indoor Championships this weekend would be “a step forward” to seeking the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 2020.
“These Championships are very important for us to show what we are capable of,” Mali said. “Our strategy is to promote Serbia as a country of sportsmen and women, and we will be a candidate for the World Indoors in 2020.”
Hansen endorsed Mali’s statement, adding: “We are very happy Belgrade is doing this because we need people with this imagination. And the best preparation they can have for 2020 is to stage a fantastic event this weekend.”
Mali added that there had also been discussions between the city and the Government over hosting a future outdoor European Athletics Championships.
“We do plan this but it is still at an initial stage,” he said. “We are working very closely with the Government and looking at building a huge national stadium in Belgrade which could hold such an event, not just for athletics but other sports as well.
Veselin Jevrosimovic, President of the Serbian Athletics Federation, commented: “When I first spoke to Svein Arne about hosting these Championships I told him these would be the best organised in the event’s history, and staged in the most beautiful stadium.
“Some people may have been sceptical about me saying it at that time, but I am sure this will be one of the best organised Championships of all time.”
Christian Milz, CEO of European Athletics, added: “If anybody has the smallest doubt about the level of readiness of the LOC I would like them to pay a visit to the Kombank Arena this afternoon. There is no scepticism now. It is the most impressive, the best ever arena ever for fans and athletes.
“Have a look at how the arena looked six weeks ago and now. The LOC President Slobodan Brankovic and his team have done a fantastic job.
“More than 560 athletes from 46 federations will take part. A total of 25 national broadcasters plan to show more than more than 330 hours of live coverage, across 54 European territories, and we thank our key partner the European Broadcasting Union for that.
“We will also be live streaming the championships with an English commentary on our website, and for die-hard athletics fans there are also independent live feeds at www.eurovisionsports.tv.
“We have a new scoring and results provider in ATOS, who operated at the Rio Olympic Games. We start a new adventure with them for the next four years.
“Ticket sales have been going very, very well. We are almost sold out every day, so go online or to the ticket booths now to make sure you don’t miss out.”
Milz added that, starting from next year’s European Athletics Youth Championships in Gyor, Hungary, every athlete would have to pass a “driving licence system”- answering questions about the ethics of competition and the importance of having clean, doping-free sport.
“By the Paris 2020 European Athletics Championships we plan to make this mandatory as a standard to achieve participation,” Milz said. “It will not be a barrier, but an enabler and a benefit for the athlete.”
All athletes competing in Belgrade will wear bibs saying “I run clean”, “I throw clean” or “I jump clean” – an innovation introduced at European Athletics events in December 2015.
“This gives a strong message from athletes that they want to compete clean and with honour in all our competitions,” Hansen said.