Mike Powell with the 'August 30, 1991, Tokyo' sculpture in Brussels (© Olaf Brockmann)
Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a world record breaker?
As of today, visitors to Laeken, adjacent to Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium, have the permanent opportunity to compare themselves with the 8.95m long jump world record of USA’s Mike Powell.
Powell’s leap, the current world record, which turned 30 years old earlier this week (30 Aug), was set in an epic competition with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
‘August 30, 1991, Tokyo’
This afternoon Ans Persoons, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, and Benoit Hellings, First Deputy Mayor for Climate & Sports, on behalf of Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels, officially inaugurated 'August 30, 1991, Tokyo', a new sculpture in Brussels, at the crossroads of art and sport. In attendance were Powell and the sculptor Pierre Larauza.
The giant artwork, which is a permanent installation, represents the take-off and, at the exact heights and positions of his shoes, the length of Powell’s historic travel through the Tokyo night sky, and his touchdown in the landing pit at 8.95m.
Visitors to the monumental artwork can also measure their athleticism. Built permanently alongside the sculpture is a 40-metre long jump runway and landing pit. The artist invites and encourages all visitors, young and old, to jump and measure themselves against the immensity of Powell’s world record.
The City of Brussels particularly appreciated this urban proposal to open up art to sport and sport to art, and decided to acquire it in 2018, to enrich the public space in an original and interactive way.
Test leap taken in Paris
The sculpture and the public’s engagement with it were tested in 2019, at the Nuit Blanche de Paris, an annual all-night arts festival in the French capital. The artistic director of the festival, Didier Fusillier, selected the work for the 5 October event that year. Larauza’s sculpture was temporarily constructed in the middle of the Parc de la Villette, and the French Athletics Federation kindly loaned a portable long jump runway to allow for the public’s participation.
Today’s inauguration is the culmination of a creative journey for Pierre Larauza which was initiated in 2011. The sculpture took several years to reach completion through a long documentary process (decomposition of the movement, reconstitution of the original shoes from archive photographs, meeting of the artist and the athlete in Los Angeles in 2019).
The construction work in Brussels started in June 2021, thanks to the close collaboration of several partners such as Constructiv and the Centre FAC (Centre de Formation en Alternance de la Construction), Demo JV, Lesuco and le Royal Excelsior Sports Club Brussels. The sculpture is supported by World Athletics Heritage.
Events concluded today with Powell offering encouragement and jumping advice to those visiting the installation during competitions organised by Bruno Schroeven, sporting director of the Royal Excelsior Sports Club.
Chris Turner for World Athletics Heritage