As we welcome in 2022, all of us feeling optimistic with our own dreams and aspirations, it would be remiss of me not to take a brief look back at the past year and the many sporting achievements and highlights for European Athletics.
We all knew that 2021 was still going to be a challenging year affected by the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic; nevertheless, we set ourselves some high targets which were, to a greater degree, achieved.
The year started with the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland and went on to see a full set of Team Championships as well as the U20 and U23 Championships over the summer.
Our major events concluded last month with a hugely successful SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Fingal-Dublin, Ireland. We hosted spectators at those events where they were allowed, and delivered safe and secure sporting environments for our top European athletes to showcase their talents.
For this, a huge note of thanks goes to all the contributing local organising committees, officials, volunteers, European Athletics and Member Federations’ staff and partners and, of course, the athletes themselves for their hard work, perseverance and dedication to our sport.
I truly believe that we have come through 2021 significantly stronger and more united than we were 12 months ago.
Allow me here a small personal note of congratulations to our two European Athletes of the Year – both of whom were world record breakers and Olympic gold medallists in 2021 – Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Karsten Warholm of Norway.
Now we begin 2022 with a fresh set of challenges and opportunities on the horizon, not least because Covid has not yet disappeared and we must to adapt to this reality.
Changes to the international athletics calendar forced on our sport by the pandemic mean that this year we will have an unprecedented three major outdoor athletics competitions back-to-back.
In a period of just under six weeks over this summer, the World Athletics Championships will take place from 15 -24 July in Oregon, USA followed by athletics at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Great Britain from 30 July-7 August, and the year will culminate with our own Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August.
Athletics fans will be served up with a feast of top-class action across their TV screens in a series of must-watch events . This is a challenge from an organisational point of view for athletes but, I believe, it is also a huge opportunity for our sport in Europe to prosper and engage the public like never before.
As President of European Athletics I will do my utmost to make sure that we support our athletes with everything that they may need via our Member Federations, so that they can compete at their very best as athletics takes centre stage at the second edition of the multi-sports European Championships in Munich next summer.
For European Athletics this means continuing the work with our Member Federations in important areas such as our series of leadership programmes, on sustainability – which is quite rightly, in my view, becoming an increasingly important element for event hosts – as well as the crucial area of safeguarding which is so important for the future generation of young athletes.
Talking of the future generations the European Athletics U18 Championships takes place in Jerusalem, Israel from 4-7 July and will be yet another highlight of this coming summer’s European athletics calendar.
Let me conclude by wishing all of you, wherever you are and however you are engaged in our wonderful sport, a healthy and successful 2022. Happy New Year!
European Athletics President