Holy City prepares to host 48 countries for U18 European Athletics Championship

June 22, 2022 by TPS
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In less than two weeks, Jerusalem will be the site of the U18 European Athletics Championship, a historic event for Israeli sports. About 1,000 young athletes from 48 countries, will compete in the largest track and field event ever hosted by Israel.

Jerusalem (pictured). Photo Credit: Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons.

According to Ariela Rejwan, CEO of the Jerusalem Municipality, members of the European Athletics Association (EAA) selection committee were intrigued by the possibility of having the event in the Holy City of Jerusalem. However, this was not enough to convince the committee to vote for Israel over the six other countries competing for the honour.

“We had to contend with a lot of competition to bring the championship to Israel,” says Rejwan. “We had to convince people that it is safe to be here, that it is a modern multi-ethnic, multicultural city, and then COVID came, and we had to work around that.” With a big smile, she talked about soon welcoming the European athletes to the first post-pandemic sports event in Israel.

A visitor can be forgiven for not immediately comprehending the enormity of the achievement embodied in the Givat Ram Athletics Stadium, situated at the bottom of a flight of stairs behind modest large metal gates. Only when you are given a tour of the stadium and speak with the man ensuring the smooth running of the event do you really understand the accomplishment.

Jack Cohen, CEO of the Championship in Jerusalem, points to the completely renovated athletics stadium, brought up to European standards. New features include a roof over the remodelled spectator stands, a press booth, a photo finish observation tower, a scoreboard that is the largest in the country, and a totally refurbished track.

Perhaps the most significant detail that impressed the selection committee, Cohen shared, is the fact that all relevant facilities are “close to the venue.”

The hotels and training centre are within a five-to-ten-minute drive, for example.  But most uniquely, says, Cohen, “there is no other place in the world where the athletes warm up and then walk 10 meters to the track to compete. In other places, the warm-up area is 200-300 meters away and outside the stadium.”

All of this required a huge budget. The largest contributions came from the Jerusalem Municipality which provided NIS 50 million (approx. $14.5 million) and the Ministry of Sports and Culture about NIS 6 million. Other sponsors, such as the Israeli Eldan car rental firm, the Toto Sports Lottery, and more helped make this happen.

The newly renovated stadium will be the site of future international athletics meets and its existence is expected to elevate the status of athletics within Israel.

Cohen said it was not easy to convince the EAA to begin the competition in the middle of the week. Usually, the championship begins on a Saturday, but that is the Jewish Sabbath and it would be unacceptable to complete on that day in Israel.

Spokesperson for the Israel Athletics Association, Amit Goldstein, said that visiting Jerusalem is an incredible experience for everyone and, after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are just beginning to travel again, coming to Israel to compete provides a perfect opportunity to see the city.

“Those who love athletics and want to visit the holiest city in the world can participate in what is, for the State of Israel, a historic event,” he said.

Rejwan expects that hosting the championship will help boost tourism in Israel. “The youngsters will likely put photos up on Instagram: ‘Look at me, having a wonderful time in Jerusalem.’“

Cohen says that security issues were, of course, discussed. He notes that events that happen in most other countries are not necessarily reported in the foreign press, “but any small thing that happens in Jerusalem is in the news instantly all around the world. This makes an impact and you need to explain: you see, we are sitting here now, in the heart of Jerusalem, and it is quiet.”

Nobody has cancelled their participation for security reasons.

Cohen paraphrases the famous breathless exclamation uttered by Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball player after a win against Moscow in 1977 when he said, “Israel is on the map.” Cohen says, “Jerusalem is on the map of athletics and we are going to stay on the map of athletics. Bringing 48 European countries to Jerusalem was difficult to imagine. It is very special that it is happening.”

Sheri Oz/TPS


2 Responses to “Holy City prepares to host 48 countries for U18 European Athletics Championship”
  1. Jack Chrapot says:

    How long will it be before the malevolent BDS starts threatening and bullying athletes into not competing.

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    Great to see the name in this perspective…..

    Watch out for name stealing….or is plagiarism?

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