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Athletic extravaganza starts on Saturday

After evaluating bids from Stuttgart (West Germany) and Helsinki (Finland) the IAAF Council awarded the inaugural competition to the Finnish city which hosted the first ever IAAF World Championships at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Itís time for the worldís greatest athletic extravaganza which is second only to the Olympic Games. The latest edition of the IAAF World Championships, better known as the World Athletic Championships, due to commence in Daegu, South Korea on Saturday (27).

Following an official welcome address by IAAF President Lamine Diack, the Mayor of the City of Daegu, Kim Bum-il declared the 48th IAAF Congress with a colourful and spectacular ceremony held in the Grand Ballroom of the Exco-Hotel, Daegu today. Representing Sri Lanka at the IAAF Congress was Major General Palitha Fernando, the President of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka.

Major General Fernando said he would discuss with world leaders to obtain more assistance to develop track and field in Sri Lanka. The Technical Meeting of the IAAF World Championships will take place after the conclusion of Congress this afternoon.

When one compares the list of impressive statistics from the last IAAF World Championships held two years ago in Berlin, Germany, confirms the high magnitude of the forthcoming event in South Korea with over 2,000 athletes from over 200 national teams, 10,500 officials and volunteers, 4,000 media representatives, 500,000 spectators, an accumulative total of 8 Billion TV Viewers worldwide, more than US$7 Million in prize money, and a $80 Million economic impact to the host city Daegu.

The forthcoming world athletic extravaganza will be the 13th edition of the IAAF World Championship which began way back in 1983 in Finland. The idea to have a World Athletic championship finally became a reality in the early eighties and the first IAAF World Championship was worked off from August 7 to 14, 1983 in Helsinki, Finland. It comprised of 25 track and field events for both men and women, apart from the menís decathlon and womenís heptathlon.

But the need for a World Championship first came up nearly 100 years ago. But in 1913, the IAAF decided that the Olympic Games would serve as the World Championships for athletics. This was fully acceptable for nearly half a century. But in the late 1960s the desire of many IAAF member countries to have their own World Championships began to grow. However, it was only in 1976 that the IAAF Council Meeting in Puerto Rico that the world governing body for athletics formally approved a separate World Championship apart from the Olympic Games.

After evaluating bids from Stuttgart (West Germany) and Helsinki (Finland) the IAAF Council awarded the inaugural competition to the Finnish city which hosted the first ever IAAF World Championships at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, which staged the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Over the years the competition has grown in size. In 1983 an estimated 1,300 athletes from 154 countries participated. By the 2011 competition, in Daegu, South Korea, it had grown to over 2,000 athletes from 203 countries with an accumulative television audience of over eight billion people across the globe.

There has also been a change in the schedule over the years, with several new events, all for women, being added. By 2005 the schedule for men and women was almost equal. The only differences being the men had the extra event of the 50 km Walk, while women competed in the 100 m Hurdles and Heptathlon compared to the men in the 110m Hurdles and Decathlon respectively. Crowning as the fastest man of the inaugural IAAF World championship was American sprint merchant Carl Lewis as the Americans made a clean sweep in the menís 100m final. It was the time that Lewis was at his early peak, preparing for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He clocked 10.07 seconds to take the first menís 100m gold medal in the IAAF World Championship history. He completed his individual golden double by securing the menís long jump gold medal with a leap of 8.55m, ahead of team mates Jason Grimes (8.29) and Mike Conley (8.12).

While the Americans dominated in the menís 100m final and long jump, it was German Marlies Oelsner who emerged as the fastest woman at the inaugural IAAF World Championship, clocking 10.97 seconds to win womenís 100m final. Her team mate from (then) West Germany, Marita Koch (11.02) bagged the silver medal while the Americans could only win the bronze through Dianne Williams. But Koch made a magnificent comeback to win the womenís 200m gold in 22.13 seconds, ahead of Jamaican Merlene Ottey.

The USA also bagged the menís 200m gold and silver medals through Calvin Smith (20.14) and Elliott Quow (20.41) respectively. Lewis bagged his third gold of the meet when he anchored the US menís 4 x 100m relay team to victory with a new World record timing of 37.86 seconds.

Great Britainís Daley Thompson became the first decathlon gold medallist of the World Championship history when he finished ahead of German Jargen Hingsen with an easy 105-point margin.

German Democratic Republicís Ramona Neubert became the first heptathlon gold medallist in the World Championship history when she finished with a clear lead over team mates Sabine Paetz-John and Anke Vater-Behmer who settled for the silver and bronze medals. It was a clean sweep by the German lasses. Polandís Zdzislaw Hoffmann was crowned the first ever World Championship triple jump gold medallist with a leap of 17.42m. There was no womenís triple jump event at the inaugural IAAF World Championships.

 

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