European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen travelled to Podgorica, Montenegro this weekend to celebrate 70 years since the founding of the Athletic Federation of Montenegro and 135 years since the first recorded athletics competition took place in the country.
Hansen presented the President of the Federation Milorad Vuletic with the prestigious Golden Plaque award in recognition for his years of service to athletics in Montenegro at an award ceremony on Saturday and addressed the media at a press conference.
Along with European Athletics vice president Dobromir Karamarinov, Hansen oversaw the signing of a cooperation agreement between Montenegrin Olympic Committee President Dusan Simonovic and Mayor of Bar Dusan Raicevic ahead of the 2019 Games of the Small States of Europe and met with a number of officials and politicians during his trip.
I am in Podgorica in Montenegro for 70 years celebration of Montenegro federation and 135 years of athletics in this beautiful country pic.twitter.com/LVVnemNDWv
— Svein Arne Hansen (@SvenPres) November 17, 2018
Hansen said the signing of the agreement outlining joint plans for the renovation of the Topolica Stadium in Bar was “a great day for sports and athletics” but also emphasised the importance of developing facilities in Podgorica - the only capital city in Europe without an athletics track - to further support athletics in Montenegro.
"This agreement is a great day for sports and athletics. Montenegro has many talents but it is necessary to provide them with the best conditions. It's great all this is happening in Bar, but an athletics stadium in Podgorica is needed and we have transferred it to the Sports Minister and the representatives of the Podgorica Municipality,” Hansen told local media.
Hansen added: "My wish is for every major city in a country to have an athletics track or a stadium, and I hope the sports ministry will help the leadership to build the track or the stadium. I hope that the next time I come to Montenegro will be to officially open the stadium.”
Karamarinov, who is also the President of Balkan Athletics, also gave high praise to the Athletic Federation of Montenegro for their hard work in developing the sport nationally and regionally.
"We call the Montenegrin Federation a small one, but it is an organisation that is very active, organising significant competitions. Today is a great day because Bar is a wonderful place, which can become one of the athletics centres in the Balkans,” he said.
The town of Bar staged the European Throwing Cup in 2014 and the Podgorica Marathon has a five-star certification rating from European Athletics Running for All and has staged the Balkan Half Marathon and Marathon Championships in the past.