(L-R) IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss, IAAF President Lamine Diack, and Roberto Gesta de Melo, Brazilian Athletics Confederation and LOC President and IAAF Council Member (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News

President Diack's comments - IAAF Press Conference, Rio 2008

Rio de Janeiro, BrazilAt today’s IAAF Press Conference ahead of tomorrow’s IAAF / CAIXA World Half Marathon Championships (Sunday 12 Oct), IAAF President Lamine Diack formerly opened the championships with the following comments to the assembled media.

“This weekend’s competition is the final IAAF World Athletics Series competition of 2008. It has been a long year – but an exciting one – and it is a good opportunity to stop and remember our sport’s progress around the world this year, from Edinburgh in Scotland to Cheboksary in the heart of Russia, from our Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland to the magnificent setting of the Olympic Games in the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, China.”

“Following the exploits not only of Usain Bolt but all our athletes, including the road running specialists, the sport of athletics has once again captured public attention and I believe that we can look ahead with confidence to a bright future.”

“But I would like to pay a special tribute to road running. The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is the ONLY World Championship for road runners and allows our elite road runners an important competition opportunity, but also gives the IAAF a bridge into the world of the recreational runner, a community that has discovered running, and who have helped make the road running scene one of the most vibrant in our sport.”

“Just weeks ago, that legendary runner Haile Gebrselassie made history by becoming the first man to run a marathon in under 2:04hrs in Berlin, but then he had the grace to say that he was not sure he could have beaten the Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, who ran a superb time of 2:06.32 in Beijing to win in tough conditions. What better guide to the great competitiveness of our sport? But also remember that when the Ethiopian broke his own World record by 27 seconds with his 2:03:59, and in the women’s race Mikitenko became the fourth fastest runner ever over the distance winning with 2:19:19 and becoming the first German to break the prestigious 2:20 barrier.”

“The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships have seen many great names take part in the past, especially the Kenyans Paul Tergat and Tegla Loroupe who amassed five titles between them: Tergat (1999/2000), Loroupe (1997/1998/1999). But in fact, the IAAF’s annual world title fixture for road runners has always attracted the cream of the discipline with the names like Skah, Baldini, Gebrselassie, Meyer, Radcliffe, Adere... among the many great champions who have also added this world trophy to their cabinets. The winners of the last two editions of this competition, Zersenay Tadesse and Lornah Kiplagat are here again to try to win a hat trick of titles. Thank you for joining us today to help promote the event.”

“It is also my pleasure to take this opportunity to celebrate Brazil’s long and steady contribution to athletics, under the careful management of my colleague and friend Roberto Gesta de Melo. The IAAF’s aim is to have great events in every part of the world, so I am happy that South America is organising an IAAF World Championship event for only the third time since 1989, although their great success in hosting the Pan Am Games in Rio shows the great capability and potential of Rio de Janeiro as a host of world class sporting events. I am sure that our colleagues in Brazil have made every effort to ensure that the promotion of this event is second to none.”

“Rio is a well established road race venue and its organizers are very experienced. The course will ensure that TV pictures of this magnificent city are broadcast all over the world and we anticipating fast times.”

“We can certainly anticipate some exciting battles for honours here in Rio where a total prize purse of US$245,000 will be paid by the IAAF both for individuals and teams.”

“Thanks for your attention and I’d like to wish the organisers and athletes the best of luck.”