The weekend with the IAAF Continental Cup is here. The last little details are being finalized, so that the City Stadium in Ostrava can host athletic elite from all over the world. At the today's official press conference, the two presidents (Coe and Varhanik) and four ambassadors (Bidouane, Pittman, Jackson, Powell) were also joined by two athletes from each team.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe stressed in his opening speech how inspirational the Continental Cup can be. He recalled himself watching the first World Cup (Continental Cup's predecessor) in Düsseldorf 1977 on TV. He saw the victory of his countryman, Stephen Owett, at 1500 m. "Or that wonderful fight between Albert Juantorena and Mike Boit at 800 m," said Coe, who himself won half-mile race in Rome four years later. Back in history, the competition also served as a test before the Olympics, as in 1989 Barcelona was.
After recalling the past, the head of the world association has returned to the present. "We thank the Czech Federation for taking over the imaginary relay baton and for making happen the innovation we wanted," Coe said. And, of course, he was pleased with the stadium would be full at the weekend as the last tickets disappeared. Of course, the organizing team headed by Libor Varhaník, the chairman of Czech Athletics, is happy as well. "But we also want to make communication with the stands, that is why the kids from the Ostrava Supports Continents” project will be ready to encourage all the teams so that athletes from more distant continents feel at home," explained Varhaník.
"Team spirit is also important in individual sports such as athletics," says Africa’s Ambassador Nezha Bidouane. "I am very excited and I am grateful that I can be in this role," said Asia-Pacific’s Captain Jan Pittman. When the words were taken by their male colleagues, sport diplomacy disappeared. "Europe is the leading team. And if there some trash talk, I will be the first," laughed home Captain Colin Jackson. "We have strong team, and I always like to chat up about it," argued his American rival Mike Powell, who does really not spoil any fun.
Then the athletes-representatives of all four teams sat behind the conference table. "I am really lucky to be here again among the best athletes in the world," said Kenyan javelin star Julius Yego, who already competed in Continental Cup four years ago in Marrakech. "It's great to wear the same jersey, although we're from different continental places," Australian discus thrower Dani Stevens said. "I really like team competitions and I will cheer on as much as I can – go, Europe!", Greek pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi promised.
"It's great to have jumper as a leader, but I'm also looking forward to the mixed relay," said Christian Taylor, American triple jumper, who can do very well at 400m, too. And he was also repeatedly in Ostrava. "I like to come back here, I love the energy of the people. And when the stadium is full? I think it will be walking," he added in exaggeration.
Three of the athletes mentioned will have to deal with the special rules for this competition. (Three attempts for everyone, then the better of each team continues, and the top two of the fourth round will advance to the fifth – and last.) What do they fell about it? "I think it's going to be very interesting, and I am sure we will see lots of surprises," said Stevens. "Try something else," said Yego, disapproving the changes. "The tactic is clear, to jump the world record in the first three attempts, and then go smart," joked Taylor.
Also, four Czechs will wear European jersey in the continental battle. Simona Vrzalová (15:25) and Tomáš Staněk (16:52) on Saturday, and pair of javeliners Jakub Vadlejch (16:05) and Nikola Ogrodníková (17:13) on Sunday. As a reserve, multi-eventer Kateřina Cachová is ready to jump in, too.