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The European Metropolis of Lille, capital of athletics
06/23/2017 (14:28 00)
The European Metropolis of Lille, capital of athletics

A few hours before the start of the European Team Championships 2017, representatives and athletes express their excitement and eagerness to get down to business on the famous blue track of the Stadium Lille Métropole.

The track is ready for action, the athletes are already in the zone mentally and the public is ready to pack itself into the grandstands of the Stadium Lille Métropole. This Friday, the atmosphere has reached fever pitch in northern France, before the first of the weekend’s activities kick off. “We can already congratulate ourselves on the event being a great public success, since 70% of the seats have been sold, and with the fine weather, we’re hoping for even more takers. It’s a sure sign that the region’s locals are real athletics connoisseurs”, says a delighted André Giraud, President of the French Athletics Federation.

On this annual Olympic Day, the start of the European Team Championships is a powerful symbol. “The championships are an important leg for our athletes and herald the start of a fine adventure, which will conclude with the European Championships in Paris at the end of the Olympiad, continues the President of the FFA. Furthermore, within the context of Paris’ bid to host the games in 2024, our know-how will be under careful scrutiny. I have no doubt that we’ll make a success of this competition.

A top-ranking organisation

We’ve turned down the temperature a few degrees after the heatwave of recent days and we’re hoping for three superb days in the North. Organising this event was an obvious step forward for us, as we are a region with strong sporting associations”, adds Dany Wattebled, Vice-President of the Métropole Européenne de Lille in charge of major sports events. Indeed, the MEL, that forms the backbone of the local organising committee, has received strong praise from European Athletics, as voiced by Svein Arne Hansen, its President and Christian Milz, its General Manager.

We’re very proud to be here today. You can sense that there’s real enthusiasm for sport and for athletics. We knew that the organisation would be top quality, and we hope the competition will be the same. The values of solidarity and team spirit conveyed by this event lie at the heart of our development strategy, explains Christian Milz, General Manager of the EAA. They symbolise the true richness of our sport in all its glory.

Röhler keen to get going

The German javelin thrower Thomas Röhler, dispatched by the German delegation to the press conference to explain his team’s aims of victory, proved to be very keen to get down to action. “The stadium seems well prepared and I hope there will be a big crowd to support us. We, the Germans, are here in a bid to secure victory. We have the necessary technical know-how and we have the athletes to make up a full and determined team. It’s a motivating and intriguing challenge.

In total, some 1,000 athletes and members of staff of the eleven nations present are expected around the Tartan track, so a showstopping spectacle is on the cards with all these groups coming together on the international stage. 76 hours of live coverage is scheduled on around ten or so European channels, which is the perfect way to showcase the supreme quality of the athletics line-up present in the Hauts-de-France region. “There’s a massive amount of excitement, both on a personal level and in the team, admits Kafétien Gomis, the French long jumper. It’s great for each host country to have the public support behind them. It’s even stronger for me as I grew up and began my athletics career here.

Public support

A native of Brittany and a member of a club in the Paris region, Jessica Cérival shares her fellow compatriot’s enchantment with the event. “I’ve lived in the area for a year and a half so I feel at home here. I’ve asked a number of my colleagues to come and watch so I’m really counting on them not to disappoint, especially as the majority of them don’t know much about athletics and the shot put.” The French athlete, like her compatriot, fully intends to reap the benefits of the public support to excel on home soil and treat themselves to a collective podium.