New Delhi, IndiaDuring hsi speech at the traditional pre-championships press conference, President Lamine Diack emphasized the efforts of the IAAF to bring competitions to Asia, an area with massive development potential.
IAAF President Lamine Diack's Speech
It gives me great pleasure to be with you today on the historic occasion of the 13th edition of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
It is a special pleasure and honour for the IAAF to be in New Delhi, because it is the first time that an IAAF World Athletic Series competition has been held in India, and also the first time that the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships has been hosted in Asia.
The decision to award this event to New Delhi follows the IAAF's policy of increasing the ‘universality’ of our sport.
I am already very proud of the fact that athletics is a truly global sport, and the fact that we have 211 Member Federations around the world is testimony to that. But more importantly, this is not just a token statistic because, unlike other sports, we have very wide reach in terms of where are champions come from, and there always medalists in athletics from each of the six IAAF Continental groups. As you all know, Asia is always well represented in IAAF medal tables, with India’s own Anju Bobby George, taking a bronze medal in the Long Jump at last year’s World Championships in Paris, while in Athens, at this summer’s recent Olympic Games, athletes from 65 countries reached finals and 40 of those won Olympic medals. How many other sports are as universal as that?
Nothing helps to build interest in athletics quite like a major competition though and I am very keen to see how tomorrow’s event helps to spark interest in athletics not only in New Delhi, but in India as a whole.
I am very pleased to announce that this 13th edition of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is expecting 60 nations to be presenting with 107 men and 67 women for a total of 174 athletes.
I am also confident that we will have great spectator support for the competition because road running is nothing new to this city. I know that New Delhi has been a key venue for marathon races in India like the Rath Invitational Marathon which attracted some foreign participation. The Indian capital also regularly organized mass road races like Olympic Day Run and charity events like "Race Against Time."
New Delhi has been the site of human habitation for more than 2,500 years, and the city is filled with beautiful archeological sites. For this reason, I believe that the TV images, beamed around the world, will be a tremendous advertisement for the city and for our sport.
Thanks to the efforts of my colleague on the IAAF Council Suresh Kalmadi, an energetic leader who is also President of the Asian Athletics Association, I am confident that India, and Asia as a whole, will continue to find ways to improve facilities and provide competition and coaching structures, with the on-going support of the IAAF.
I hope that as our sport continues to develop more stars will also emerge and Indian parents will realise that there is athletics can offer a worthy alternative to cricket and hockey for their athletically gifted youngsters.