IAAF President Sebastian Coe and ConSudAtle President Roberto Gesta De Melo jointly hosted a glittering dinner show on Friday night (27) to officially mark the centennial celebrations of the IAAF’s oldest area association.
The historic gathering of IAAF Council members, representatives of South America’s 13 national athletics federations, athletes and coaches in honour of ConSudAtle’s 100th birthday took place in the ‘Gran Salon’ of the Hotel Panamericano, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The hour-long show, organised by IAAF Heritage, celebrated the glorious history of South American athletics through a mixture of archive video footage, photographic displays, interviews and presentations.
During the evening, the two presidents were joined onstage by three of the area’s all-time great athletes: Ecuador’s 1996 Olympic and three-time world 20km race walk champion Jefferson Perez, Brazil’s world indoor and outdoor pole vault gold medallist Fabiana Murer and, her compatriot, the three-time World Cup 200m winner and two-time Olympic sprint medallist Robson Da Silva.
The show recalled that it was in Buenos Aires on 24 May 1918, in the offices of the newspaper La Razón, that ConSudAtle was founded.
Its original members were Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, whereas today the area is composed of 13 IAAF member federations.
The confederation cemented its existence the following year when, in April 1919, the inaugural South American Championships were held in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Class and tenacity
“South America has been at the very heart of our sport ever since (1918),” said Coe.
“I can personally testify to the class and tenacity of Brazil’s middle-distance runners. From Agberto Guimarães, who finished fourth in Moscow in 1980, to Joaquim Cruz who led me home in Los Angeles in 1984, to José Luíz Barbosa who took the 1987 world indoor gold, Brazil has produced some of the world’s finest 800m runners.”
Yet South America’s runners have been surpassed in their brilliance by the area’s jumpers and vaulters, with the triple jump historically the standout event.
“The greatest of those athletes is of course Brazil’s world record-breaking 1952 and 1956 Olympic triple jump champion Adhemar da Silva,” continued Coe.
“And the triple jumping tradition lives on today, thanks to the exploits of Colombia’s 2016 Olympic champion Caterine Ibargüen and Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, the 2017 world champion.”
Lifelong passion and dedication
Coe also paid tribute to the outstanding contribution which Roberto Gesta De Melo had made to the development and success of athletics in South America.
“Athletics has been your lifelong passion and it’s been your dedication that has powered the administration of South American athletics,” said Coe. “The sport owes you a debt which is impossible for us to repay.
“The level of support for athletics which you have selflessly given – nationally as a former Brazilian president, regionally as area president and internationally, via your seat as on the IAAF Council – is hard to match.”
Three golden heroes
During the evening, Perez, Murer and Da Silva were each interviewed about their careers and were honoured with an IAAF Commemorative Plaque presented by Coe. They also received a copy of the centennial book, ‘Golden Heroes’ of South American athletics, from De Melo.
Perez, who as well as his Olympic and three world 20km titles was a three-time World Cup winner and a world record breaker, is the most successful South American athlete in history. Therefore, the IAAF was especially honoured last night when Perez generously donated to the IAAF Heritage Collection the competition kit he wore when winning the 2007 World Championships 20km race walk gold medal in Osaka, Japan.
Earlier in the evening, representatives of the 13 South American federations had come on stage to accept a commemorative souvenir from their area president. At the climax of proceedings it was the turn of De Melo to receive an IAAF Commemorative Plaque from Coe to officially mark ConSudAtle’s centenary.
The show ended spectacularly with the two presidents and the athletes cutting a large birthday cake together, at which moment with the shout of ‘happy birthday’, two confetti canons were fired in salute of the centenary.
At the dinner which followed the show, instead of numbers, each table was uniquely identified with signs bearing the name and photograph of a famous South American athlete.
Concluding the night’s entertainment, in between the main and dessert courses, there was a demonstration of Argentinian tango.