The eternal question troubling all meet organisers is ”How will I be able to get a sold-out arena for my event?”. The answer is obviously quite simple to formulate - “Just bring the athletes that the general public really wants to see”. However, to accomplish that in the real world is certainly easier said than done.
Not even a bunch of World record holders and Olympic champions is any guarantee that the stands will be filled to the very last place. But nothing really beats a true “local hero”. Well, with the exception of course of two - or even more - local heroes!
Just ask the organisers of the Stockholm stop on the Energizer Euroseries - GE Galan. The meet on Tuesday will be the 14th edition and it has not always been possible to attract enough spectators to get everyone of the 10.000+ seats in the Globe Arena occupied.
However, the last two editions have indeed been completely sold out with the last tickets being purchased a day or two before the meet. The major reason for the increased interest could be spelled “Kajsa Bergqvist” - with the supporting act of her male High Jump colleagues Stefan Holm and Staffan Strand.
But none of the thirteen previous editions - which have produced no less than six World indoor records - could be even remotely compare to the 2003 meet when it comes to public interest: Already two weeks ago, just before the big advertising campaign was launched in the local newspapers, the ticket office reported that all seats already had been sold!
The explanation for this unheard of public interest is of course the multitude of “local heroes” created by the exceptionally successful year internationally that Swedish athletics experienced last year: Seven Swedish medallists from the 2002 European Indoor Championships - of which five medalled also outdoors - will be in action in the “GE Galan”!
The two High Jumps are of course staged also this year. Current IAAF World Rankings leaders Stefan Holm and Kajsa Bergqvist will up against their toughest opponents last year - Yaroslav Rybakov and Marina Kuptsova - plus young upstarts like Jaroslav Baba and Anna Chicherova as well as other proven in-form jumpers of this winter like Andriy Sokolovskiy, Alessandro Talotti and Viktoriya Seryogina! In the men’s competition there is also the true “Globen specialist” Staffan Strand who has won the last two editions with 2.34 and 2.35 respectively!
In the men’s Triple Jump - one of the four designated Energizer events - Christian Olsson is looking forward to further extend his remarkable string of 17m-competitions: The current count is 25 in a row and 34 of the last 35. Of course, he also wants to extend his 3 out of 3 winning streak this winter. Which won’t be any simple task as almost everyone except legend Jonathan Edwards is entered: Walter Davis, Alexander Martinez, Marian Oprea, Jadel Grégorio, ...
New national superhero Carolina Klüft will be featured in a special Triathlon consisting of 60m hurdles, long jump and 400m. Carolina, who this winter already has improved her personal bests in 60m, 60m Hurdles, Long Jump and Shot Put, will be facing reigning World Indoor champion Natalya Sazanovich, the silver medallist at last year’s European Indoors Naide Gomes and the current No 2 on the IAAF World rankings for combined events Shelia Burrell!
In the Hurdles race the 2000 World Junior champion Susanna Kallur will provide an added spicing. Susanna, who after a somewhat down 2002 opened her 2003 with a bang in Glasgow two weeks ago clocking 7.90, is now a serious threat to the national record (Ludmila Engquist’s 7.88) every time she steps on a track.
But the field event action won’t stop with two High Jumps, one Triple Jump and one Long Jump. No, there will also be two Pole Vault competitions! To be able to squeeze them into the time frame there will be select fields of just five male and five female competitors that will alternate on the runway.
Swedish European Championship finalists Patrik Kristiansson, Oscar Janson will certainly find it tough to compete for the top honours against the likes of Lars Börgeling, Viktor Chistiakov and current world leader Tim Lobinger. And it will not be any easier for Kirsten Belin in the women’s event, as she will be up against the most recent 4.70-vaulter Tatyana Polnova, reigning World Indoors champion Pavla Hamackova and Olympic medallist Tatyana Grigorieva!
Although there is no doubt that it is the local field event heroes creating the extraordinary ticket demand for the 14th edition of GE Galan, the running events on their own also look to give the visitors their money’s worth. The three Energizer events - men’s and women’s 60m and men’s 400m - of course feature top class fields. In the men’s 60m there are among others Jason Gardener, Coby Miller and Canadian Nicolas Macrozonaris, in the women’s 60m Muriel Hurtis and Karin Mayr go head-to-head and in the men’s 400m you find names like Jamie Baulch, Marek Plawgo and James Davis.
The middle and long distance fans will also have a generous serving: The 800m features the top-2 all-time indoors (Wilson Kipketer, Yuriy Borzakovskiy), the current world leader (Wilfred Bungei) - plus World championship winner André Bucher. In the 3000m, reigning World Indoor champion Rui Silva will be facing i.a. Salah Hissou and Luke Kipkosgei and in the women’s 1500m there will be a couple of World record holders (Alesya Turova and Berhane Adere) verses the reigning World Indoor champion (Hasna Benhassi)!
Now it is up to the athletes to prove that those holding coveted GE Galan 2003 tickets are indeed to be envied!
Lennart Julin for the IAAF