Global warming is a serious problem but for one day a year Svein Arne Hansen puts his environmental concerns to the back of his mind and keeps his fingers that the sun will shine strongly on the ExxonMobil Bislett Games.
“The weather is a constant topic when we are talking generally about the Exxon Mobil Bislett Games,” admitted Hansen, ahead of the second event in this year's six-meeting ÅF Golden League 2009.
In the past, the rain and wind blowing off the North Sea have sometimes made their presence felt at the event in the often-wintry Norwegian capital, but it's highly unlikely to be an athlete's excuse for an off-day this year.
“This year I think we'll continue to be having weather that we might have stolen from the Caribbean,” he added, Oslo having sweltered for several days before the meeting.
Hansen was not exactly basking in the sun as this interview took place inside the City Hall at the traditional Strawberry Party, the well known day-before-the-meeting fruit extravaganza which dates back to 1965, but he was certainly glowing from the fact the thermometer looks set to be at around 30 degrees at the start of the meeting on Friday evening.
“In recent times, and I think it was almost as hot last year, but the only time I can be certain it was hotter was back in 2005 when we opened the new stadium here.”
“Add that to the fact that we've got a fast track, a knowledgeable crowd, and I think you can expect some great races and performances this year.”
He has every reason to be confident. The stadium, in either its old or new form, has gained the reputation as ‘The World Record Track’. There have been 67 official World records, World best performances or unofficial World records depending on how the statisticians classify a particular feat.
“We think we have been successful in featuring athletics in its purest traditional form, athlete against athlete, which is really the basis of our sport. It is an age old adage in our sport that if you provide athletes with the opportunities, the performances will follow,” he reflected.
This year's assembled field looks particularly tasty, to use an appropriate tabloid phrase shortly after sampling from a stunning spread of food.
“In the men's 100m, we've got Asafa Powell up against our own Jaysuma Saidy Ndure. Javelin throwing has a great following here and there's Norway’s double Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen up against Tero Pitkämäki (the reigning World champion from Nordic neighbours and rivals Finland),” commented Hansen, running the rule over some of the most keenly anticipated events.
“There's the 800m as well with (Sudan's) Abubaker Kaki up against 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy. We all remember what Kaki did last year when he set a World junior record and the fastest time in the world for 2008.”
Bislett bolsters local talent
“I think it's also important that we acknowledge the presence of some young Norwegian talent, stars of the future, like Christina Vukicevic and Ezinne Okparaebo. There's a lot of others coming through as well.”
“A few years ago there was a slight dearth of Norwegian talent coming through but we have a very promising generation of talent, mostly girls like Christina and Ezinne but some boys as well.”
“It's been a long time, as long as I've been directly involved and that's since the early 80s, that there have been so many Norwegians competing in the Bislett Games as this year.”
“Another one to mention is Vladimir Vukicevic, Christina's younger brother, who set a Norwegian hurdles record and has only just turned 18. He'll be still young enough to compete in the IAAF World Junior Championships next year,” said Hansen, playing the talent spotter.
“So, of course we hope that the Bislett Games again lives up to everybody's expectations, whether they are Norwegian or from somewhere else in the world.”
Phil Minshull for the IAAF