General News Berlin, Germany

Berlin's ISTAF - 90 years, 70 editions

A general view of the Berlin Olympic Stadium during the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images)A general view of the Berlin Olympic Stadium during the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images) © Copyright

When the gun sounds the start of the opening event at Berlin's ISTAF meetings on Sunday (11) afternoon at the German capital's historic Olympic Stadium, it will mark a significant milestone not only in the history of the competition, but in the sport as well.


On Sunday, ISTAF, one of the world's premiere one-day meetings, will celebrate its 90th birthday and its 70th edition.


"This is an exceptionally special year for ISTAF Berlin, a marvellous track and field meeting whose reputation and prestige far transcends Athletics and which across all sports is one of the world’s premier and most enduring competitions," said IAAF President Lamine Diack.


Since 1937, ISTAF (Internationales Stadionfest), the world's oldest track and field meet, has been held regularly, almost exclusively at the historic Olympic Stadium, built for the 1936 Olympic Games and more recently host to the 2009 IAAF World Championships.


But the first international competition which set the foundation for the meeting was held more than two decades earlier, on 3 July 1921, at the former Grunewald Stadium at the same location. A handful of Swedish athletes competed at that first edition, earning the meeting the right to indeed refer to itself as international.


Co-organised by the Berlin Sports Club, the Charlottenburg Sports Club, and the Poseidon Swimming Club, the 1921 edition also included a swimming race. But since then, it's been all about athletics, culminating in one of the richest traditions in the entire world of sport.


The first meeting  under the ISTAF name was held on 1 August 1937, when the Berliner Sport-Club (BSC), the Deutsche Sport-Club (DSC, later renamed into OSC), and the Sport-Club Charlottenburg (SCC) joined forces to avoid conflicting dates. That year, two World and one European record were broken before a crowd of 85,000. While the second World War and immediate post-war period forced its cancellation during most of those years, the meeting continued virtually uninterrupted. Coming full circle, its 2010 edition witnessed David Rudisha set his first of two World 800m records when he clocked 1:41.09.


Over the years, ISTAF has been an integral part of each IAAF one-day meeting series - The IAAF Grand Prix, The Golden Four, The Golden League and the IAAF World Challenge.


More than 50,000 spectators are expected on Sunday where a dozen recently-crowned World champions will compete.


Bob Ramsak for the IAAF