10 JUL 2008 General News Oslo, Norway

Words from the Meeting Director - Oslo 2008

Oslo - Svein Arne Hansen (c)Oslo - Svein Arne Hansen (c) © Copyright

Svein Arne Hansen

Oslo, Norway - Most guidebooks to Oslo suggest bringing rain wear whatever the season, and regular visitors to the Norwegian capital can attest that showers are far from unusual even in June, but ExxonMobil Bislett Games meeting director Svein Arne Hansen can see the positive side of global warming.

"This year for the first time in something like 20 years we have the weather gods on our side, even several days in advance of the meeting. The weather at the moment has been extremely good and the forecast for the meeting itself is even better," smiled Hansen, perhaps aware that he bears a passing resemblance to some of the medieval depictions of Freyr, the Norse god of the weather.

"In such conditions, I don't think predicting a World record is even so ambitious. We have some athletes in good enough shape to do it" he added, casting an eye over the list of competitors in his meeting

The women's 800m and women's 3000m Steeplechase stand out as the races where new standards could be set.

"There is the new 800m wonder girl from Kenya, Pamela Jelimo, I'd never seen her before she ran in Berlin last Sunday but what a fantastic race... I think people who saw her on television might have thought she was the pace maker but she bluffed them. I think she can run a low 1.54," suggested Hansen.

Following last week's prediction by the Berlin meeting organiser Gerhard Janetsky that LaShawn Merritt would defeat Jeremy Wariner, it would be unwise to bet against the men who have got the inside knowledge after months of studying who is in form.

"But I think that the men's 800m race is as exciting because in David Rudisha and Abubaker  Kaki, we have not one but two men who can follow in the footsteps of the great Wilson Kipketer and become the stars of this event.

"Overall, a combination of the weather and athletes starting to show their form means I'm sure we will see great performances in many of the event's in this year's ÅF Golden League," added Hansen.

For many years, the Bislett Games has been the traditional curtain-raiser for the summer's Golden League meetings but this year it comes second in the calendar after Berlin.

"I have mixed feelings about this. I always think that if you are first then you have an extra incentive to put that extra bit of effort into organising a spectacular event.

"Also, there are a few people who did not feel so good after Berlin and they said they were not up to coming here. Fortunately, we have been able to replace them with good quality athletes but there is always the problem of trying to do these sort of things in a short space of time. Coming first in the calendar means there are not quite so many last-minute adjustments that need to be made as a result of what has gone before," reflected Hansen

Oslo, however, always put on a show when ever it is staged and what ever its place in the calendar.

Like in 2007, Svein Arne plans to let thousands of local children come on to the infield an get a taste of what it is like to step on the famous track.

"Every one will get a T-shirt, we have to bring the youngsters in the sport and at the Bislett Games we encourage them.  For many people in Norway who are now involved in athletics, their first memory is coming to the Bislett Games when they were young.

"But this year the big difference is that the children will come on to the field after all the events are over," joked Hansen, well aware of one of the very few organisational lapses of the Bislett Games 12 months ago.

The last track event of the 2007 meeting had been completed but the the women's High Jump and Pole Vault were  still in progress when a good natured invasion took place with children descending from the spectator tribunes.

In the melee, with young fans avidly seeking autographs of their heroes and  heroines, Russia's Yelena Slesarenko and Yelena Isinbayeva spiritedly continued to go on and win their competitions with the former incredibly, considering the surrounding distractions, going clear over 2.02m. Slightly perturbed, Isinbayeva made three unsuccessful attempts at 4.95m after already having won her competition at 4.85m.

Adults and children alike will also be made aware of an important cause, which the Bislett Games meeting and its sponsors ExxonMobil are involved with, via a publicity campaign during the meeting.

"We are working with the Red Cross and raising money to buy malaria nets. Something as simple as a malaria net can save a person's life. Athletics has so many links with countries where malaria is present, like Kenya, that we wanted to do something," added Hansen

Phil Minshull for the IAAF