Lolo Jones opens the DN Galan Youth and soaks up the atmosphere as well as a fair amount of rain (© Chris Turner IAAF)
The perfect Scandinavian summer evening of yesterday had transformed into a day of muggy temperatures with persistent light rain as the 1912 Olympic stadium hosted the final two-day installment of DN Galan week.
A unique youth competition, the DN Galan Youth, from 7-8 August, played out with all the trappings of the elite senior competition of the previous day’s Samsung Diamond League meeting.
This youth track and field meeting, which is open for athletes born 1991-1998, is designed to give the kids some sense of the buzz of a major international meeting, the organisers “transforming the stadium into the world’s first Diamond League event for kids”, allowing them “to get the feeling of competing just as the world's star athletes do”.
The organisers promised and delivered:
- calling and event presentation
- live-broadcasting on internet
- VIP-village with food and sponsor activities
- world star athletes as award presenters
- video screen with replays and interviews
- announcer, music and sound in DN Galan style
Matching the promises, the youth tournament had got underway in true world-class style two days ago (5) at the DN Galan 'Big Shot' in the Kungsträdgården, when newly crowned world junior champion Jacko Gill of New Zealand, who is only 15 years old, launched the 5kg shot an amazing 22.53m which was a national youth record.
This afternoon, double world indoor 60m hurdles champion Lolo Jones was the first of the many star names from the senior world lending their support as presenters.
Jones officially and enthusiastically opened the two main days of competition, recounting how Stockholm's DN Galan set in the city's historic stadium had been a favourite venue for her during her career. The 28-year-old hurdler advised her young audience and their families, who made up a crowd of a few thousand in the stadium, that getting to the top and generally succeeding in sports, let alone life in general, is all about “dedication, stubbornness, persistence and belief".
It was a theme that DN Galan meeting director Rajne Söderberg later picked up on as he briefly retold the story of the founding of the main DN Galan meeting which had its origins in the beginning of cooperation in the 1940s between the large number of athletics clubs in the Stockholm area, who set up a coordinated competition structure.
It was one of these competitions, the “July Games”, which was the genesis of the current Diamond League meeting, first staged in 1967 and celebrating its 44th edition this year, and which is now the largest annual sporting event in Sweden.
“The DN Galan has become the national institution it is today through a good degree of stubbornness and a lot of persistence,” said Söderberg with a wry smile on his face.
Generations of Swedish athletes have come and gone but the country has always retained a love affair with the sport of athletics and an understanding of athletics culture, to such an extent that – despite coming off the back of a golden generation of retired stars such as Kajsa Bergqvist and Stefan Holm and with very little success at the last Olympic Games, World or European cChampionships – Söderberg was confident to declare that “the DN Galan is THE annual sporting event of the country, the ‘must-have ticket’ event of each Stockholm summer.”
The establishment of the DN Galan Youth is all about helping retain the connection between Stockholm and athletics, so ensuring the future of the meeting.
The organisers rightly calculate that by capturing the imagination and excitement of a new generation, giving them a taste of a true athletics spectacle, that the 1066 youth athletes, who over two days are making a total of 2352 starts across dozens of different event disciplines, will come away wanting to be part of the sport whether that means as a spectator or as a future champion like Jones or Allyson Felix, Fabiana Murer, Naide Gomes and Bershawn Jackson who were also on hand to give prizes at the meeting.
It might have been raining but it was athletics culture which was really being soaked up in the Olympic stadium today.
Chris Turner for the IAAF