As the athletics at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gets underway, I want to pay tribute on behalf of everyone at European Athletics to all of the athletes who are set to represent Europe on the World’s Greatest Stage.
Like all of us, these athletes have faced challenging conditions. Lockdowns had a significant impact on their ability to train, compete and maintain their peak physical condition.
At European Athletics, we had to take the tough decision to put our competition calendar on hold, which gave us the breathing space to come up with a robust and flexible plan for getting our competition calendar up and running again in 2021. Meanwhile, our athletes continued to find creative ways to keep themselves fit and active, inspiring many others to do the same, all the while keeping our fans engaged and motivated for the eventual return to competitions.
By March 2021, we were ready to deliver our first event in over a year – the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland.
For many of our athletes, it was their first major sporting event since the pandemic began but this appeared to have no impact on the quality of the spectacle. It was a masterclass in adaptability by our athletes and the organisers of the event, who despite the challenges faced, put on a brilliant show for the millions who tuned in via their TVs across the continent.
It was imperative that we delivered the event smoothly so that our athletes could focus on getting back to their best. It also gave us and our stakeholders the confidence needed to push ahead with the remainder of our calendar before the Olympic Games.
Next up was the European Throwing Cup in Split, Croatia in May followed by the European Race Walking Team Championships in Poděbrady, Czech Republic and the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in Silesia, Poland. All of these events were delivered without any major incidents, which allowed our athletes to focus on what they do best and gain valuable experience ahead of Tokyo 2020.
From Sweden’s Daniel Ståhl in the discus to Ukraine's Yaroslava Mahuchikh in the high jump and Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen in middle distance running, to name only a few, Europe is currently blessed with a golden generation of athletes. It is therefore European Athletics’ responsibility and my single-minded ambition to ensure we continue to provide an elite competition calendar that helps them achieve their full potential.
And with athletics competitions set to get underway at Tokyo 2020 tomorrow, that potential is about to be unleashed. Having watched our athletes in person at our competitions this spring, I have no doubt that they are ready to produce some memorable European performances. My colleagues and I will be enthusiastically cheering them all on as they look to bring home those medals.
We will also feel a huge sense of pride at what we have achieved over the last year. Having sadly lost our visionary leader and dear friend, Svein Arne Hansen, at times it was difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Today, however, we can take great pride in the work we undertook to deliver on our promise to run a full competition calendar in 2021 and the role we played in ensuring our athletes arrive in Tokyo in the best possible condition.
This has given us a renewed sense of hope and optimism for the future with Tokyo 2020 also contributing to that hope. I now very much looking forward to an action-packed week of athletics and to those unique emotions that only the Olympic Games can generate.
Dobromir Karamarinov, European Athletics Interim President