Last October when launching their promotion of 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the patron of the Local Organising Committee, His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al Hussein, stated that by hosting the championships he hoped to further enhance the position of the Kingdom as a leading sporting and leisure destination.
This afternoon at the Al Bisharat Golf Course some 20km outside the Jordanian capital those expectations were entirely fulfilled.
The course set in a picturesque bowl between tree lined hills provided a tough, true cross country challenge. Along with thousands of Jordanian spectators perched on the valley sides we were treated to a marvellous spectacle of distance running at its elemental, raw best.
Today’s four races took the competitors on a sometimes violently undulating route through the countryside their shoes traversing an ever changing surface of sand, gravel and grass. Adding to the permanent features of this challenging venue mother-nature threw in a strong chilling westerly wind which bit into the runners faces especially as they approached the long agonising slope of the finishing straight.
“We are delighted that the IAAF selected us to host this prestigious event and we will not let the athletics world down. We have proved ourselves capable of hosting major world championships and we will deliver something special and unique in March,” promised His Royal Highness last October, and today Jordan duly delivered.
The Jordanian capital is establishing a growing reputation as a trusted host of athletics events having previously staged the 2007 Asian Cross Country Championships, and later in the same year the 17th edition of the Asian Athletics Championships.
In the wider sporting contest Jordan this year will host another round of the FIA World Rally Championship and previously snooker, triathlon and fencing have all held their world championships in Jordan.
Today’s organisational triumph which saw a modern media centre with superb connections and service, along with spectator and VIP tribunes rise temporarily on the slopes of this beautiful venue can only help burgeon the country’s international credibility as a reliable host.
Amman broke new ground by hosting these championships.
In 2007, Kenya, the spiritual home of cross country running organised the World Cross Country Championships, while last year the venue was Scotland, the country from where the discipline first originated. Now with Amman 2009 the World XC has set foot into the Middle East for the first occasion, new territory for these championships and another step in the general universalisation of our sport.
Amman is also only the second occasion on which Asia has hosted the World Cross Country Championships, which are the oldest IAAF World Athletics Series event, first celebrated under the IAAF banner in 1973.
Chris Turner for the IAAF