The second Museum of World Athletics (MOWA) exhibition to be launched in Oregon this year was opened on Thursday (23) by world gold medallists Abdi Bile and Bernard Lagat.
To mark the occasion, the respective 1987 and 2007 world 1500m champions made generous donations of World Championships-winning singlets to MOWA.
The opening ceremony of the MOWA Track & Field Heritage Exhibition Oregon22, hosted at the Erb Memorial Union at the University of Oregon, was held on the first day of the USATF Championships at Hayward Field, the venue for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (15-24 July). It follows this year’s first Heritage display launched in Portland in April.
The two world champions were joined for the MOWA opening in Oregon by Eugene City Council vice chair Matt Keating, University of Oregon president Michael Schill, USATF president Vin Lananna, WCH Oregon22 athlete experience director Sasha Spencer Atwood and senior director of sports at Travel Lane County, JB Carney.
Together, the seven guests declared the MOWA exhibit open by cutting the official ribbon and unveiling the showcases.
Bile’s brilliant finish
Bile, who won the world 1500m title in Rome in 1987 for Somalia, has lived in the USA ever since attending George Mason University, where he graduated in marketing. Bile, whose eldest son Ahmed was also a talented runner (3:37 for 1500m and a sub-4:00 miler), is now a USA citizen.
Bile set a championship record of 3:35.67 in his Rome semifinal, winning the final in 3:36.80. Two years later, he also won the World Cup title in Barcelona in 1989, beating World Athletics President Sebastian Coe in the process.
In a career troubled by injury, Bile never quite fulfilled his true talent (PBs 800m: 1:43.60; 1500m: 3:30.55; mile: 3:49.40). With injury keeping him out of the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, as well as the 1991 World Championships, he returned to the global stage in Stuttgart in 1993 to take world bronze at 1500m.
Clutching his gold medal, Bile recalled his brilliant finish in Rome, in which he ran the final 1000m in 2:16.6 and the last 800m in 1:46.6 to claim an emphatic victory. “I expected the race to be fast,” he said. “I was confident of winning after running such a quick semifinal.”
Bile brought to Eugene a very special gift for MOWA, generously donating his Rome 1987 World Championships-winning singlet to the World Athletics Heritage Collection, which is displayed in the museum.
“I was so impressed when MOWA’s 3D online platform was launched in March 2021 that I immediately promised to donate my Rome singlet to the collection,” confirmed Bile. “I am delighted to fulfil that pledge today and help mark the opening of this special exhibit in Eugene.”
During his running career, Bile was an ASICS athlete, and to mark the forthcoming World Athletics Championships, ASICS has launched a temporary display in the Reception Hall of MOWA’s virtual online platform.
Lagat – no fewer than 13 global medals
In Osaka in 2007, Lagat became the first and so far only man to win the 1500m and 5000m double at the World Athletics Championships. One of the most successful ever middle- and long-distance runners, Lagat has no less than 13 medals at a global level to his name.
His other accolades include back-to-back 3000m victories at the 2010 and 2012 World Athletics Indoor Championships, along with a win at the same event in 2004 when he represented the country of his birth, Kenya.
“It is a great pleasure to donate my singlet to MOWA,” said Lagat, “knowing that it will be treasured in a collection that includes artefacts from middle-distance greats like Paavo Nurmi, Jim Beatty, Herb Elliott, Kip Keino, Eamonn Coghlan, Seb Coe and Hicham El Guerrouj.
“I am very proud that my singlet is part of the exhibit in Eugene and will soon be displayed in MOWA’s online 3D virtual displays.”
The singlets from Lagat and Bile will be on public show for the next month in Eugene. The MOWA exhibit closes at the end of 24 July, the last day of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
60 athletes, 25 countries, six areas
The two MOWA exhibits in Portland and Eugene feature track and field artefacts from 1908 through to the present day. These artefacts are just a small fraction of the World Athletics Heritage Collection, which is on permanent display via MOWA’s online platform in glorious 360° 3D.
Singlets, running shoes, equipment and trophies from more than 60 all-time greats of track and field athletics, representing more than 25 countries across all six continental areas, are being exhibited in Oregon.
The world and Olympic champions and world record-breakers represented by artefacts include Paavo Nurmi, Jesse Owens, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Emil Zatopek, Adhemar da Silva, Herb Elliott, Irena Szewinska, Carl Lewis, Grete Waitz, Michael Johnson, Marie-Jose Perec, Gail Devers, Haile Gebrselassie, Cathy Freeman, Maria Mutola, Jan Zelezny, Robert Korzeniowski, Carolina Kluft, Allyson Felix, Usain Bolt, Valerie Adams, Ashton Eaton, Christian Taylor, Anita Wlodarczyk, Mutaz Barshim and Eliud Kipchoge.
Click here to read how you can collect a free, limited-edition series of MOWA Collector’s Cards, featuring many of those legends.
Heritage clothing collection launches
A Heritage clothing collection featuring iconic logos from the Helsinki 1983, Rome 1987 and Tokyo 1991 World Championships has been launched today in the World Athletics online store.
This latest merchandise offering follows the release of World Athletics Championships Belgrade 22 items earlier this year and includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.
Click here to discover the range.
Chris Turner for World Athletics Heritage