In the UK in June/July 2016 Euro tends to refer to the Brexit referendum fias…..errm result or the half-baked ineptitude of the English football team. But in the athletics world it was the European Championships in Amsterdam that particularly tickled my fancy, so I went to them. In brief:
- Women’s 10,000 metres with superb runs by Jess Andrews and most notably Jo Pavey, the latter placing 5th in a stacked race and securing her qualification for the Rio Olympics. Amazing recovery after placing lower in the UK Champs than she managed in the Europeans
- Men’s 1500 metres, if only because after a ridiculously slow first two laps it produced the fastest last lap I have actually been present to see, with the winner Philip Ingebritson of Norway tanking around the last lap in a few tenths over 50 seconds
- Men’s and Women’s Half Marathon Championships. A new event this, and the plan was that when the biennial Euros are in an Olympic Year, as in 2016, this half distance attracts many who ar e building towards the Rio marathon about 5 weeks later. It worked, with both fields having over 70 finishers each, a very large field at this level, and a great quality of runners within this quantity. Lovely scenic course in and around Amsterdam’s central parks and canals
- Men’s 5000 metres. Not for anything remarkable about the quality of the race either individually or as a group of runners, of whom depressingly few are actually European-born, but look at this for a close finish. The winner clocked 13.40.85 whilst 4th place clocked 13.40.86 – so after 12 ½ laps of racing, a guy was 10 centimetres behind the winner and didn’t even sneak a medal. Again, not something I have seen before and am unlikely to see again. Think about it – even if the four guys actually tried to cross the line in a four-way tie, it’s unlikely they could have choreographed it quite so precisely
- Turkey’s policy for nationalising foreign athletes. With only a couple of exceptions almost the whole of Turkey’s substantial medal haul was one why athletes with no ongoing or deep links by birth or residence in Turkey itself. What I did notice was that these new Turks were born in athletic powerhouse nations, are very good athletes indeed but probably not quite good enough to represent their native countries in the Olympics, and are from very poor countries. So I think we can work out what is happening and it’s no surprise that when these athletes did their laps of honour the applause was somewhat muted
- The stadium commentary was just terrible. The whole premise of these Championships is that officially every nation and every event is the same but it was clear that the stadium announcer, as well as not being hugely clued up on the sport, really only had eyes for Dutch athletes, and had no interest in any race that dragged on past two laps of the track. Given the Dutch reputation for balance and liberalism I was surprised and disappointed
- The stadium music was just terrible unless the target audience for the sport is those with very low ages and IQs, which is unlikely as these aren’t the people who have the money to buy event tickets. There is LOADS going on across the track and across the jumps and throws so why not tell us more about this?