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Press Conference of IAAF President Lamine Diack for 28th World Cross Country Champs


Speech of IAAF President Lamine Diack
Official Press Conference -
28th IAAF World Cross Country Championships
Vilamoura, Portugal
17 March,  2000

It gives me great pleasure to welcome my friends from the Media to Vilamoura, in the heart of Portugal's beautiful Algarve, for the 28th edition of the World Cross Country Championships.

I am delighted to inform you that, as has become a habit with our events, we can announce a new record of participation. With the arrival yesterday of delegations from Bolivia and Estonia, 81 Member Federations of the IAAF will take part in the weekend's sporting activities. Almost 1000 athletes, from every continent, will contest the six races. As you all know, as well as the traditional races for Juniors and Seniors, the IAAF is continuing with the short race format that was established in 1998 and was an immediate success. On this topic, I am happy to welcome back Sonia O'Sullivan who was the first ever "double" World Cross Country Champion, and is returning from giving birth to her first child. You will get a chance to talk to Sonia, and many other top athletes, including Paul Tergat who is going for a historic sixth title, later at this Conference.

For me, cross country has tremendous importance. The world continues to change and to modernise. As urbanisation increases all over the world, there is less and less space for the sort of carefree physical activity that many of us took for granted when we were young. Cross country running - on courses like the beautiful one you will find here in Vilamoura - gives young people a chance to express themselves in the most elemental way, in full harmony with nature. Perhaps this is why more and more people are signing up for this World Championships.

Now I would like to pay tribute to my hosts. Vilamoura is a perfect venue for these World Championships. There is tradition, thanks to an annual event THE ALMOND BLOSSOM which was founded here in 1977 and is now one of the most famous international cross country races in the world. There is also enthusiasm and a perfect course - green and spectacular, surrounded by fields of wild flowers. Our friends on the Local Organising Committee have made superb efforts to produce excellent facilities. It is my hope that this course can be made a permanent one - and so enhance Portugal's cross country tradition which has already produced two World Cross Country champions Carlos Lopes and Albertina Dias - who were also the last Europeans to win their respective titles.

The continuing development of Portuguese athletics, thanks to the dedication of the National Federation, can be seen in the results of athletes like the Castro brothers, Antonio Pinto, Paulo Guerra, Rui Silva, Carlos Calado, Conceicao Ferreira, Fernanda Ribeiro and Carla Sacramento but also from the fact that next year, Lisbon will be hosting the next edition of the World Indoor Championships. This is a sign of the respect in which the IAAF holds this country.

For the future, the IAAF Council, has decided to further strengthen the World Cross Country Championships by introducing competition awards for the teams.

For now, it remains for me to wish all the athletes a successful Championships. I hope they will help you to write many, many great stories.