European Athletics Championships, Zürich 2014

 

The European Athletics Championships are now (since 2010) held every two years, which means that alternate events fall in the same year as the summer Olympics. The 2014 European Championships were held at the Letzigrund stadium in Zürich, Switzerland, from 12th to 17th August. 1,439 athletes from 50 European nations took part, competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in 24 track and field events (Men) and 23 events (Women). The host nation came 16th in the medal table, with one Swiss gold for Kariem Husein in the Men’s 400m Hurdles. Top of the medal table was Great Britain with 12 golds (5 of them won on the final day) and 23 medals in all); France was second with 9 golds, also with 23 medals in total; Germany, with 4 golds and 8 medals in total, was third.

Notable performances in 2014 were by Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, who won the women’s 100 and 200 metres, and Britain’s Mo Farah, winner of the 10,000 and 5,000 metres. Spain’s Ruth Beitia retained her high jump title at the age of 35, and Antje Moldner-Schmidt won the women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase 4 years after beating cancer. Two British athletes won their second gold medals in the relays: Adam Gemili, who had already won the men’s 200 metres, finished first in the men’s 4x 100 metres relay; and Martin Rooney, already the men’s 400 metres champion, won his second gold for the 400 metres relay.

Swiss defending men’s European Marathon champion, Viktor Röthlin, ran his last marathon in Zürich at the age of 39, coming 5th. One race that was not rewarded with a medal was the fun event between Colin Jackson, former 100 metres hurdles world record holder and now a commentator for the BBC, and the European Athletics Championship mascot, Cooly the cow. Now 47 years old, Jackson challenged Cooly to a race and narrowly won.

Seven smaller countries won a single medal each: Azerbaijan’s silver, only their second European medal ever, came from Hayle Ibrahimov in the men’s 5,000 metres; Henrik Ingebrigts was silver medal winner for Norway in the men’s 1500 metres; Mark English won bronze for Ireland in the Men’s 800 metres; and Israel’s only medal was Donald Sandford’s bronze in the men’s 400 metres. Portugal’s only medal was a bronze in the women’s Marathon, won by Jessica Augusto. Ali Kaya won bronze for Turkey in the men’s 10,000 metres, and Belgium’s solitary medal was in the women’s Heptathlon, won by Nafissatou Thiam. Nearly half (23 out of 50) the competing countries did not win a single medal.

This was the second time the European Athletic Championships have been held in Switzerland; the first time was in 1954 in Bern, at the Stadion Neufeld, when 686 athletes from 28 nations competed. More than 148,000 spectators attended the athletics events, and over 100,000 more watched road races. The marathon was held on a course around the city, starting and finishing in Bürkliplatz, with the whole race being broadcast on giant screens. To coincide with the athletics championships, Zürich held a City Festival in the city centre, turning the Sechseläutenplatz into an arena for shows, which attracted more than 200,000 spectators. An important feature of the festival was the House of Switzerland, offering Swiss design and architecture, crafts and food. As with the Olympics these days, the European Championships are dependent on volunteers to make the event run smoothly. The 2016 championships will be held in Amsterdam, and in 2018 Berlin will be the host city.

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