“It seems remarkable that two years have passed since I was in Kingston, Jamaica for the ninth edition of the IAAF World Junior Championships,” said IAAF President Lamine Diack at today’s official press conference.
"This 10th edition of the championships in Grosseto will be the first to have been celebrated in Italy and the biggest sports event ever held in this country in terms of participating nations.
"We are happy to announce that there are 1429 athletes from 181 countries. (previous record 170 countries, 1184 athletes from Annecy 1998)
"As ever, starting tomorrow, we can expect six days of intense competition from which we will be able to adjudge the future stars and trends of our sport.
"The last edition of these World Junior Championships, and the 2000 celebration in Santiago as well, will always be associated with the enthusiastic brilliance of Sweden’s Carolina Klüft in the Heptathlon, a talent which has already reaped its own rewards on the senior stage in Paris last summer.
"In a similar way, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who ran in front of a capacity crowd in Kingston, to win the 200m final and become the youngest ever World Junior champion, is still a Junior two years later but unfortunately, despite running an extraordinary 19.93 World Junior record earlier this summer and being entered for this Championships, Usain will not compete in Grosseto.
"Usain is suffering from a hamstring injury and is now undergoing medical treatment in the hope of being 100% fit for the Olympic Games. We all hope that he will get well soon and that we will see racing at his best in Athens.
"Such a sudden transformation from junior to senior stardom is of course very much the exception rather than the rule in athletics. However, although we can never be exactly sure of the senior fortunes that will await this year’s winners in Grosseto, we can be certain that there will be many great future senior champions in their midst.
"Young people today have so many choices, so many distractions, not only when it comes to choosing a sport, but choosing other leisure activities as well, that the sport of athletics really needs to work to create future stars.
"I believed then, and am even more convinced today, that our sport must reach out in an assertive way to this age group; we must encourage them to fall passionately in love with our sport.
"When I was a young man, athletics formed the basis of our school sport curriculum, which meant that regardless of whether youngsters ended up being footballers or swimmers, they all shared a common background in athletes. Of course, because all of us did athletics, it was more likely that the talented ones would be discovered and would go on to achieve great things in our sport. It remains the goal of the IAAF to plant seeds wherever it can. These World Junior Championships are a unique opportunity for developing athletes to gain valuable experience, to improve personal bests, and to build friendships with those they are competing against.
"In closing, I would also like to congratulate our hosts, supported by our friends from the Italian Athletics Federation, for the marvellous efforts they have made to ensure not only the best technical conditions for the athletes – which should always be the priority of a competition – but also to launch a number of innovative promotional activities, which aim to promote the values of sport and to encourage social interaction between people from every corner of the world.
"The organisers have also seized the opportunity to showcase a marvellous city, Grosseto, set in the picturesque Maremma region, which is perhaps the loveliest area of Tuscany, famous worldwide for its climate, its architecture, its history and its people. I can tell you that the IAAF is delighted that our best young athletes have a chance to savour top class competition in such a pleasant environment."