05 MAR 2009 General News Turin, Italy

Turin's Olympic skating oval welcomes Europe's athletics elite

Christian Milz, Hansjörg Wirz, Franco Arese and Anna Riccardi at the LOC press conference in Turin (Bob Ramsak)Christian Milz, Hansjörg Wirz, Franco Arese and Anna Riccardi at the LOC press conference in Turin (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright

This weekend’s 30th European Athletics Indoor Championships were officially introduced this afternoon (5) at a press conference held at the Oval Lingotto in Turin.

The venue for the three day continental championships (Friday 6 to Sunday 8 March) has been transformed from an enormous empty shell, which held skating competitions at the 2006 Winter Olympics, into a stunning setting for this biennial event which is the culmination to this year’s international indoor season.

European Athletics President and IAAF Council Member Hansjorg Wirz, Franco Arese, President of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Christian Milz, Director General of  European Athletics, and Anna Riccardi, Director General of the LOC and an IAAF Council Member, were the dignitaries attending today’s pre-event press conference.

"The stage looks perfectly set for three days of scintillating athletics," said President Wirz, and was followed by Milz who confirmed that “ticket sales are going very well and we should see a full stadium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.”

Over 600 athletes from 45 countries are taking part at the championships which will be shown on TV in 57 countries worldwide, “showing just how attractive our sport can be,” said Milz, “offering fun and excitement to the whole of European society especially the young.”

“I am very satisfied that the preparations have gone so well and we can use this great facility left by the Olympic Games for the benefit of athletics in this great city,” commented Arese.

“It’s been a great challenge and the transformation (of the Oval) has been quite complex with the design stage beginning back in 2006,” said Riccardi.

In the second half of the conference it was then the chance for four athletes to occupy the head table with reigning two-time 400m champion David Gillick (IRL), Gregory Sedoc (NED) who took the 60m Hurdles title two years ago, joining two high profile members of the host delegation, Antonietta Di Martino, joint-World silver medallist for the women’s High Jump and Claudio Licciardello, the world season leader in the men’s 400m, to answer questions from the media.

Sedoc – “I broke a bone in my foot last year and so I couldn’t run really fast but I began (properly) training in October and it went really, really well and I began competing again in February. I’m healthy now that’s the main thing.”

Licciardello – “I don’t think I’m the favourite (400m) as the real favourite is sitting next to me here today, David (Gillick). When we compete I think we should begin by being humble and so all I will say is that I will do my very best at these championships.”

“It’s wonderful to be here at this great facility which I have already experienced at the Italian championships. The track is very fast and overall I think the 400m is one of the best events at these championships (in Turin).”

Di Martino – “I had an injury to my toe in November and so its been a bit difficult for me as until three weeks ago I haven’t been able to train properly. So I was really surprised and pleased to come here for the Italian championships two weeks agao and jump so well (1.96m – 21 Feb).”

“I know that competing here in Italy we will get strong support from the public but I also know that my opponents Blanka (Vlasic) and Ariane (Friedrich) will be very strong.”

Gillick – “I picked up an illness in Beijing and so took a break after that and set back training in the autumn with no real goal about competing in Turin. My coach and I decided I should just get on with training and decided to see how it would go, and its gone well.”

“Yes I have won this championship before but every championship is unique. It’s a new championship and a new year and I look forward to competing here.”

Chris Turner for the IAAF