News31 Jul 2023

From Quercetani to Gerner – Heritage Plaque update


World Athletics Heritage plques

The World Athletics Heritage Plaque programme – which was created in December 2018 to highlight, celebrate and link together iconic and historic athletics careers, cities, competitions, culture, landmarks and performances around the world – has been especially active in June and July.

Eight plaques have been either been announced, presented, or unveiled across Europe, NACAC, Oceania and South America in the categories of ‘Competition’, ‘Culture’ and ‘Legend’, covering four athletes, one coach, one historian and two competitions. The World Athletics Heritage Plaque is a location-based recognition, awarded for an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport of track and field athletics and of out-of-stadia athletics disciplines such as cross country, mountain, road, trail and ultra-running, and race walking.

The historian

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe was in Florence, on 2 June for the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea – Wanda Diamond League. In the morning before the competition, he visited the ASSI Giglio Rosso sports club to announce the award and unveil a new heritage plaque. The plaque jointly honours the doyen of athletics statisticians Roberto Luigi Quercetani (1922-2019) – Category: ‘Legend’ – along with the Association of Track Field Statisticians (ATFS) – Category: ‘Culture’ – of which he was a founder member. The plaque is permanently on display in the club’s library which houses Quercetani’s collection.

Four legendary athletes

On the eve of the Paavo Nurmi Games - Continental Tour Gold - in Turku on 12 June, the plaque which honours the legendary ‘The Flying Finn’ was unveiled on the wall of the Paavo Nurmi Stadium by the Mayor of Turku Minna Arve and World Athletics Council Member Antti Pihlakoski.

Minna Arve and Antti Pihlakoski

Minna Arve and Antti Pihlakoski

Nurmi, the 9-time Olympic gold medallist, who set 22 ratified world records, was one of the inaugural recipients of the plaque when the new location-based award was launched by Coe in Monaco in December 2018.

On the 24 June in New York, USA, Cathy Oerter and USATF CEO Max Siegel presented the plaque awarded in 2022 to 4-time Olympic discus throw champion Al Oerter, to the Randall's Island Park Alliance at Icahn Stadium, Randall’s Island. The ceremony took place on the track at the New York City Grand Prix - Continental Tour Gold. The plaque will be permanently displayed at the stadium. Oerter was a great supporter of the stadium’s development, and he threw there on many occasions.

Cathy Oerter and Max Siegel

Cathy Oerter and Max Siegel

The plaque honouring another recipient in the posthumous category of ‘Legend’ was unveiled at the Mestský Stadion, Ostrava, ahead of the 62nd Ostrava Golden Spike - Continental Tour Gold - on 27 June. The plaque which celebrates the ‘Czech Locomotive’ Emil Zatopek is situated below a bust of the 4-time Olympic gold medallist outside the stadium in which in 1949 he set two of his world 10,000m records.

On Sunday 16 July, the plaque awarded to Australia’s distance running world record breaking ace Ron Clarke earlier this year, was officially unveiled by City Of Glen Eira mayor, Councillor Jim Magee at Duncan Mackinnon Reserve, the home of Clarke’s Glenhuntly club. The ceremony took place in the presence of family members, the club’s president Michael Ryan, and several of Clarke’s former teammates and training partners.

Michael Ryan, Marcus Clarke and Mayor Jim Magee

Michael Ryan, Marcus Clarke and Mayor Jim Magee

Following the unveiling, Clarke’s son Marcus and Chris Wardlaw, dual Olympian and Sydney 2000 athletics team head coach spoke on different aspects of his career. Trevor Vincent and Tony Cook, clubmates and co-Tokyo 1964 Olympians, clubmate and 1962 Commonwealth Games teammate John Coyle, world marathon record breaker Derek Clayton and several other members of the Ferny Creek Gang – the group of runners who trained with Clarke in the Dandenong Ranges – were in attendance.

Gyulai and Carr

Two days later, on Tuesday 18 July, to mark August’s World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, Hungary’s premier one-day track & field meeting, the Gyulai Istvan Memorial - Continental Tour Gold – was recognised with a plaque. The meeting in Székesfehérvár is linked to two of the most influential figures in Hungarian athletics history – Istvan Gyulai and Dr. Bojidar Spiriev – and has been an important engine for the development of the sport in Hungary since its creation.

The following Sunday, 23 July, in front of a crowd of 50,000 spectators at London’s Olympic Stadium, World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon presented the plaque, which was awarded to the Emsley Carr Mile in November 2019, to the family of Sir William Emsley Carr.

Elena Carr, Kip O’Higgins and Jon Ridgeon

Elena Carr, Kip O’Higgins and Jon Ridgeon

Carr edited The News of the World for over 50 years, the UK national newspaper which was a major national sponsor of athletics in the 1950s. The Emsley Carr Mile was founded in 1953 to encourage runners to run the mile in sub-4. The plaque will be on permanent public display in the London Olympic Stadium.

The coach

Last Friday, 28 July, after the first day of competition at the South American Athletics Championships São Paulo 2023, the heritage plaque honouring Dietrich Gerner, the Germany trainer of Brazil’s two-time Olympic triple jump champion Adhemar Ferreira da Silva was unveiled. The ceremony took place at the Salão Nobre (Great Hall) of the São Paulo Futebol Clube stadium (Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo) the club which Gerner also used to coach.

South American Athletics Confederation Heritage plaque unveiling

Dietrich Gerner Heritage plaque unveiling

The unveiling of the plaque, which was awarded in 2018 in the category of ‘Legend’, took place in the presence of World Athletics Vice President Ximena Restrepo and South American Athletics Confederation President Helio Gesta da Melo.

Chris Turner for World Athletics Heritage