I am very pleased to welcome everyone to the European Athletics Team Championships Second League here in Varaždin and I am sure we are in for an exciting weekend of athletics.
Thirty years ago, this city staged the European Athletics U20 Championships and although many high-quality domestic events have been staged here since, it has taken three decades for another continental competition to take place in Varaždin.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of fond memories from that championship 30 years ago, not just because of the champions who were crowned there like Maksim Tarasov, Valentin Massana and Astrid Kumbernuss, but also because of the excellent organisation and Croatian hospitality.
Consequently, if this competition is anything like that one in 1989 I think we will all leave here very happy after the final results are known and be perhaps talking in the same glowing terms in another 30 years about how Varaždin played its part in promoting and developing our sport in Europe.
Heightening the excitement, or maybe the tension, of this competition is the fact that with the restructuring of the European Athletics Team Championships only one team will be promoted to the First League when it is next staged in 2021.
Croatia has a very good chance of being in the battle for promotion and so I am sure that will be a huge attraction to the local athletics fans who, as notably shown at the 2010 IAAF Continental Cup, are enthusiastic supporters of our sport when given the opportunity to back their own national team on home soil.
Almost 30,000 people flocked to see the second day of the IAAF Continental Cup and while the stadium here can only hold just a little more than a third of the capacity of its counterpart in Split that still offers up the enticing possibility of capacity crowds for the this competition, which will surely motivate and inspire all the competitors from the 12 participating Member Federations.
European Athletics are very grateful to the Croatian athletics federation –
Hrvatski atletski savez – the city of Varaždin as well as all the officials and volunteers with the Local Organising Committee for all their hard work and commitment to staging this event.
I would just like to conclude by wishing everyone an enjoyable and successful weekend. Our sport is all about exciting head-to-head competition and the European Athletics Team Championships is designed to provide plenty of that, which should delight fans from each of the 12 competing Member Federations as well as neutral athletics aficionados.
Svein Arne Hansen
European Athletics President