Several past Italian and International running legends gathered in Milan on 18 October for the launch of the book “Divieto di Sosta”, the biography of Italy’s middle distance great Franco Arese.
Arese won the 1971 European 1500m title in Helsinki and held Italian National records at all middle distances from 800m to 10,000m before working as President of the Italian Athletics Federation FIDAL from 2004 to 2012 and of ASICS Europe for 31 years until 2013. Arese is now President of Karhu, a Finnish company specialising in running and ski apparel.
The list of past stars who attended the book’s launch included Finnish legends Pekka Vasala and Lasse Viren, former 800m world record holder and current Italian record holder Marcello Fiasconaro, Italian Olympic champions Abdon Pamich, Maurizio Damilano, Livio Berruti, Francesco Panetta and Fabrizio Donato.
The fascinating which looks back into the life of Arese, was written by three of Italy’s foremost athletics writers: Gianni Romeo, Franco Fava and Fabio Monti. The first part of the book, written by Romeo, fosuces on Arese’s childood and the start of his running career in his native region of Piedmont.
Fava, who was an International middle-distance runner in the 1970s and was a teammate and close friend of Arese’s on the Italian National team, worked on the second part of the book which focuses on the years of Arese’s International career, highlighted by his 1971 European 1500m triumph, his win at the 1970 World University Games and his national records.
Monti worked on the third part, which centres on Arese’s career as President of FIDAL and his post-athletics career as President of Asics Europe. A section of the book is dedicated to the atlete, such as Fabrizio Donato and Antonietta Di Martino, who won many international medals during Arese’s eight-year tenure as head of the federation.
During the launch event, 1972 Olympic 1500m champion Pekka Vasala paid tribute to his friend Arese.
“In 1972 Franco was the reigning European champion, I had not won the Olympic title and I had no sponsors,” Vasala said. “Before a meeting in the Bislett Stadium in Oslo Franco went to a shop to buy a pair of running shoes and gave them to me before my race. I have never forgotten this gesture of generosity. Today I want to give him back these shoes to express my gratitude.”
This gesture represents the spirit of the close friendship between Arese and Vasala.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe was not able to attend the book’s launch but sent a warm message to Arese to congratulate all who contributed to the book.
“Franco, a double Olympian and former President of FIDAL, has spent his life advancing with passion the cause of athletics and I am pleased to be able to honour his contribution of our wonderful sport. I am equally honoured to discover that some of my own achievements as a runner have been included in the pages of this book, a happy memory of past years. I wish Franco and everyone else at this august occasion a wonderful celebration of a great athlete and an era of European distance running, the like of which we will never see again.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF