With exactly one month to the start of the athletics programme at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the qualification period having come to an end on Tuesday 29 June, Europe’s athletes who have made the grade are now getting ready to descend on the Japanese capital.
Of course, these will be no ordinary Games due to the restrictions necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic which has already seen The Greatest Show on Earth postponed by a year, but one thing for the athletes will be exactly the same as it has been since 1992: there will be a Mondo surface beneath their feet.
For the eighth successive Olympic Games, European Athletics Partner Mondo has provided the main track for the athletics competitions.
Installed across a four-month period between August and November 2019 – when no one could have anticipated how the sporting landscape was going to have to change just a few short months later – the Mondotrack WS surface was given the seal of approval with a World Athletics Class 1 certificate in December 2019.
The Mondotrack WS surface in Tokyo’s National Stadium is an improved version of the product that was provided and installed for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the original Mondotrack surface having been launched in 2007 and supplied to the Local Organising Committees of the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
Two big athletics meetings went ahead in 2020 at the stadium but the main test event was the Ready Steady Go Tokyo 2020 meeting at the National Stadium on 9 May, which involved 420 competitors including nine foreign athletes.
Although understandably the main focus of attention that day was on the health and sanitary protocols, the local and foreign athletes present also eulogised about the track, which passed all technical and aesthetic examinations with flying colours.
The surface material of the track is 13mm thick and was specifically developed for these Olympic Games in a unique red colour tone selected by the local organisation.
Also, a distinctive black coloured material has been produced for the external perimetral frame to enhance the visibility of discrete and specific areas of the track.
No less than 1875 rolls of track – utilising 420 tonnes of rubber with each roll weighing around 220kg – was made in a brief and frantic two-month period in May and June 2019 in the Mondo factory in the Italian town of Alba. The rolls were then shipped to Tokyo by sea container, arriving in July 2019 just prior to work starting on the installation.
The track was then installed in the National Stadium by a specialised team of 12; and the rolls were unravelled to provide a surface area of 19,900 m2 for the main stadium and 15,800 m2 for the warm-up track and the transition area.
On this ultra-modern surface, which has incorporated all the latest scientific research in track technology, a target for the collective contingent of European athletes in Tokyo will be to improve on the 11 gold medals for the continent that were won in Rio, with coincidently another 11 European victories at the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
It is certainly a feasible aim with European athletes topping the 2021 world lists at the end of June in 13 of the 48 medal events to be contested in Tokyo.
The first athletics final is the 10,000m on the opening day of the sport’s programme on 30 July. Realistically, it will be a surprise for any European to get on the podium, not least because time has run out for 2012 and 2016 champion Mo Farah to make the British team for his fourth Olympic Games.
However, the deluge could start on the following day and the three finals to be contested include the men’s discus for which European throwers occupy the top five, and eight of the top ten places, on the 2021 world list headed by Sweden’s Daniel Stahl.
The 2019 world champion is the clear favourite for gold, despite the recent sensational improvement of Slovenia’s 21-year-old Kristjan Ceh, who has also thrown over 70 metres this year.
After winning 25 of his 29 competitions since taking his world title in Doha, Stahl also has the motivation of wanting to make up for the disappointment of Rio when he failed to qualify or the final after going there as a medal prospect.
Whoever wins the discus, they will also most likely achieve another memorable landmark, that of triumphing in the 1000th Olympic athletics event where gold medals have been awarded.