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Andrew Lemoncello

14 October 2009

Article as featured in Athletics Weekly by Cherry Alexander - UKA Head of Competitions and International

Last weekend saw the UK host yet another world class athletics event, and although I have been closely involved with all of the recent world championships staged on these shores, I will never tire of hosting the magical and exciting celebration of athletics.

I consider myself to be so fortunate over the years to see first-hand the effort that goes into staging championships, and to be closely involved in five major championships over the last six years has been an amazing privilege.

The championships I am referring to of course are the 2003 IAAF World Indoors, 2003 European Cross Country Championships, the 2007 European Indoors, the 2008 IAAF World Cross Country and now this weekend the 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

Each of these events had or has different characteristics and quirks, and each one of them has taught me something different about the people involved in making them happen. Most importantly, the UK in staging these varying events in such a compact period of time, has undergone an intense apprenticeship which I feel will ensure come 2012 we can deliver the athletics events for the Olympic and Paralympic Games with distinction.

The World Indoors in 2003 for example put us on the world stage, hosting a global championships at a time when perhaps confidence in our ability to stage events had been lessened - having relinquished the opportunity to hold the World Championships in 2005.

The efforts put in by every element of the organisation and the host city of Birmingham that year put on a championships to be proud of and was regarded as one of the best ever by many. 

Onto the European Indoors in 2007, and not only did we have to recreate the success of 2003 but we had to show  in our first event following the awarding of the 2012 Games to London that we were not only a safe pair of hands, but that we could hold a festival of athletics that engaged the local community. Birmingham City Council, once again worked wonders with the NIA and local people and the carnival-like atmosphere around the city’s Brindley Place Canal area showed us to be well into our stride in embracing large scale athletics events.

Both the European and World Cross Country Championships in 2003 and 2008 were staged magnificently in Edinburgh, and the Organising committee and Scottish Athletics worked brilliantly to put on what I feel were  very special championships. The beautiful setting of Arthur’s Seat, with Europe and the world’s top endurance athletes racing over the tough terrain, shouted on by thousands of spectators in my mind demonstrates exactly what a Cross Country championship should look like both on and off the course.

Now onto last weekend and once again working alongside Birmingham City Council, who take so much pride in hosting sports events, and continue to go that extra mile (!) to ensure they are memorable and involve the local community at every step.

Instead of the NIA the action centred around Centenary Square next to Broad Street and on Sunday the festival came to life further enhanced by the scheduling of the EDF Birmingham Half Marathon right after the elite World Championship races where 12,000 runners ran the same route as the world’s best.

Whether it is track and field, cross country or road, the efforts that go into staging such events should never be underestimated, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IAAF organising committee, officials, delegates, volunteers and all involved in supporting and running the event. And to the competitors, I hope you enjoyed a successful championship and the best possible championship experience.