The official opening of the European Athletics Convention on Thursday (14) was highlighted by an insightful Q+A session featuring newly elected European Athletics President Dobromir Karamarinov, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe as well as star athletes Laura Muir from Great Britain and Germany’s Johannes Vetter.
The two athletes reflected on their 2021 seasons - as well as their differing fortunes at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - and all four panelists shared their hopes for the sport looking ahead to what will be an exceptionally busy but exciting season in 2022.
For Muir, next year will be particularly packed as she will also be representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in between competing at the World Championships in Oregon and at the European Athletics Championships in Munich where she will be defending her 1500m title. After winning silver in Tokyo behind closed doors, Muir hopes she will get to compete in full stadiums again next year.
Muir said: “I think we need to build on the Olympic momentum. It was such a shame not to have a crowd in Tokyo and you just think - the performances in Tokyo were amazing and could it have been even better with a crowd?
“I think we need to try and get crowds back at the stadium - not just at a capacity before the Olympics - but hopefully even fuller and make most of the Olympic momentum especially next year when we have so many championships. It’s a really exciting year.”
Vetter agreed athletics finds itself in a fortuitous position, especially compared to many sports, and he hopes everyone involved in athletics across all levels will redouble their efforts to seize the moment and further build the profile of the sport.
“A lot of the athletes came out of the pandemic faster, better and stronger. We should continue the hard work across all levels. We have a big chance right now; a lot of sports are struggling after the pandemic so I think we should and we must take the chance to grow up better. I think we can do that with better advertisement but without destroying our sports and its traditions,” said Vetter.
These sentiments were shared by World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. While encouraged by the initial broadcasting figures to emerge from the Tokyo Olympics, not least in Australia where the seven most-watched events were all athletics events, Coe also implored the sizeable audience in attendance at the Hotel Royal Savoy not to rest on their laurels.
“As a sport I can’t remember a time when we have been in a stronger position to build on everything we have been challenged by over the half one-and-a-half years. We cemented ourselves unquestionably as the number one Olympic sport in Tokyo - the broadcaster numbers are beginning to come through and demonstrate that,” he said. "We must not squander what we have achieved. We really need to build on it."
One of the focus points of the athletics calendar next year, and not just from a continental standpoint, is the second edition of the multi-sport European Championships which will take place entirely in Munich after the first edition in 2018 was split between Glasgow and Munich. Fresh from his election as European Athletics President, Karamarinov hopes the sport will be in an even stronger position this time next year following a full complement of major championships, including Munich 2022 and the European U18 Championships in Jerusalem.
“I wish to deliver all of our championships. I wish you a successful 2022. At the next Convention, let’s speak out about the best ever European Athletics Championships and the best ever European U18 Championships,” he said.