The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is expecting next year’s World Championships in Beijing to inspire more people to join the sport.
“We hope the Championships could inspire more people to join the sports,” Secretary-General Essar Gabriel told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, when the 15th Athletics World Championships started its 300-day countdown.
IAAF Council Member Helmut Digel said at a news conference the same day that other sports federations’ championships are not as “important and global” as IAAF ones.
He took the FIFA World Cup as a comparison, as the once-in-a-four-year soccer world championship under FIFA only features 32 teams competing for a title, while the IAAF’s will involve about 2,000 athletes from more than 200 different countries and regions to compete for the 47 golds respectively in the men’s and women’s events.
Digel also said that a successful Championships will boost Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
But ironically, the International Olympic Committee will announce the host city of the 2022 Games on July 31, just days ahead of the Championships, which is set to take place in Beijing from August 22 to 30.
In recent years, marathon mania has swept China, highlighted by the Beijing Marathon, one of the IAAF’s Gold Label races. Though it was hit by heavy smog on Sunday, there were still more than 20,000 participants in the 42.195-kilometer race. The top 2,500 finishers earned themselves chances to participate in the 10-kilometer race at the Championships.
Digel said the IAAF is considering whether to combine the marathon race and the 10-kilometer mass race due to the popularity of marathons in China. A total of 10,000 runners will join next year’s mass race, according to Du Zhaocai, vice-president of the Chinese Athletic Association.
The local organizing committee ruled out using the same marathon course as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games’ or the Beijing Marathon’s, but said that planning had begun for the new course, and that it will be unveiled later this year.
Beijing has hosted the IAAF’s World Challenge event, the second-tier event behind the Diamond League, at the Bird’s Nest, since 2013.