On the eve of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe praised the hard work of the local organising committee, explaining how their efforts will be appreciated by some 2000 athletes set to compete in the Hungarian capital between 19-27 August.
Branding for the event can be seen at every turn in Budapest, from the moment people land at the airport, to the trams and buses that transport fans around the city. And this, says Coe, will result in athletes being inspired to be at their absolute best.
“It’s a week ago that I arrived in Budapest,” he said, speaking at the official pre-event press conference. “On the first morning I met the Mayor, and on the second morning I met the President. From those opening moments, it has been pretty clear to me that we’re in a World Championships city, and a city that wants us here.
“This is a really important element – and people often overlook this – but it’s a psychological comfort to the athletes that they’re in a city that’s proud to be hosting the event. And it’s totemic of the other elements of work that are taking place.
“I think we’re going to have a championship that’s going to sit comfortably in this city. And I know that we’re working with one of the best local organising committees we’ve ever worked with. The work that has been done has been of an outstanding quality.
“I’m particularly pleased that these are the first World Championships to be held under our sustainability strategy. That matters to me, and I know it matters to 75-80% of the athletes because in recent surveys they have made it clear that climate change and sustainability issues really matter to them. And I’m particularly delighted that the legacy for these championships has a real focus on physical activity.
“I’m also pleased that, working together with the LOC, we’ve managed to put together a timetable of events – particularly over the first couple of days – that gets into the championships in a very quick and exciting way. On the first day we have four finals: the men’s shot put, the men’s 20km race walk, the women’s 10,000m, and the mixed 4x400m.
“I think that the athletes are in the form of their life. And most pleasingly we have some big head-to-heads.
“This is the 40th anniversary of our World Championships. Back then, few would have imagined that these championships would have gone from roughly 1500 athletes from 130 countries to tipping 2000 athletes and about 200 countries.”
Adam Schmidt, chair of the local organising committee, said the country is excited about staging its biggest ever sporting event.
“Hungary is experiencing historic days as we are able to host the biggest sporting event of the year,” he said.
“In recent years we have hosted a number of major competitions, world and European Championships, but this will be the biggest sporting event of all time in our country.
“I know that World Athletics expects a lot from us – above all to fill the wonderful National Athletics Centre with fans and to make as many people as possible fall in love with athletics.
“In addition to the pride of hosting the event, it is also a great opportunity for Hungary and the entire Hungarian sporting scene.
“The construction of this wonderful venue, where the Superheroes of athletics will compete in the upcoming days, is due to the World Championships.
“A true miracle has been built on the site of a former closed and polluted industrial site. The venue will be a new home not only for Hungarian Athletics but for all sports lovers. The running circuit, with a panoramic view of Budapest, the sports and leisure park around the centre, will be free for all to use after the conclusion of the event.
“I hope that in addition to the experience of the World Championships, this new venue will inspire many people to get moving, to challenge and overcome themselves and to become everyday heroes. It is this desire that drives us.”
Balazs Nemeth, Chief Executive of the local organising committee, underlined the effective results of promotional activity with an update on the ticket sales.
“My main goal is to maximise the number of spectators in the stadium. Ticket sales are over 85% and are still going up really fast, so I am delighted,” he said, adding that fans from more than 100 countries had bought tickets.
On the subject of legacy, which he described as “a key word for World Athletics and the LOC”, he commented: “I want to see and feel the consequences and influences of this event for years, not only in Hungary but probably worldwide.
“We would like to encourage people to start doing active sport. That’s why we launched the School Heroes programme and the Everyday Heroes programme. And we introduced the worldwide unique ticketing strategy where whoever is doing active sport can buy tickets and packages 50% cheaper than the regular price. It’s a new idea and it works.
“Thousands of people who are living with difficulties also have the opportunity to be here and to witness the wonder. Usually VIP guests and high-ranking politicians watch sporting events from the best sectors in the home straight – but not here. We have dedicated that sector to those people who would not otherwise be able to be here.
“I have a dream, which is a shared dream with my team and I hope it is a shared dream with the Hungarian people, that we would like to organise a special event, a memorable and unique World Championships.
“But we need something more.
“First of all we try to offer fun, experience and memorable moments to everyone who comes into contact with this event. That’s why we have built two fan zones – one in the downtown and the other in the Stadium Park.
“The medal ceremonies will take place in the Medal Plaza close to the stadium in the Stadium Park. Coaches get exactly the same medal as the athletes – which is another new thing.
“And of course we have Youhuu, who I think is the best ever mascot of the World Athletics Championship. And there will be some more surprises during the event.”