(l to r - Chebet, President Diack, Merga with ETH media attache, Kastor, Kowalska) - Athletes and IAAF President Lamine Diack at the IAAF Press Conference on the eve of the 40th edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Saturday 23 March (Getty Images) © Copyright

President Diack: "a great opportunity to develop the sport in a fast-growing economic region" - Bydgoszcz 2013

IAAF President Lamine Diack faced the media at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships pre-event press conference, which took place at the Palace Hotel in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on Saturday (23).

In addition to providing a warm welcome to the assembled guests and media who had arrived on a very chilly day, with temperatures not climbing above zero degrees, he also spoke of the challenges facing the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

“This is the 40th edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the oldest completion in the IAAF World Athletics Series.

“ It was first held under the IAAF banner in 1973 and then there were 21 countries and 287 athletes. Forty years later 44 countries have sent teams, comprising of 443 runners.

“This championship is also historic as it is the first in a two-yearly cycle. I am highly confident that it will be a well organised championship as Poland and, in particular, Bydgoszcz, has a lot of experience.

“Warsaw staged the World Cross Country Championships in 1987 and, of course, the Championships were here in Bydgoszcz in 2010. This city was also where we had our first IAAF World Youth Championships in 1999 and also the World Junior Championships in 2008.

“This year, Bydgoszcz is the host for the first event in the 2013 World Athletics Series which will climax with the IAAF World Championships in Moscow this summer between 10-18 August.

“This presents athletics with a great opportunity to develop the sport in a fast-growing economic region; and with the World Youth Championships being held this year across the border in the Ukraine city of Donetsk from 10-14 July, for the first time ever, Eastern Europe monopolises all the World Athletics Series events.

“The World Cross Country Championships represents the pinnacle of long distance running. The roll call of previous champions is like a Who’s Who of athletics greats. Names like: Waitz, Jennings, Tulu, Radcliffe, Masai, Dibaba, Cheruiyot, Lopes, Treacy, Ngugi, Tergat and Bekele.

“We look forward to some exciting races this year. Imane Merga, the reigning senior men’s champion from two years ago, is back to defend his title but there is also a lot of pride and honour at stake. Kenya will be battling with their Ethiopian rivals and one only needs to remember that at the 2010 edition here it was Kenya, for the first time in the history of the World Cross Country Championships, who won all the gold medals at stake.

“I also want to say that although we are in Europe, many European countries are not competing here, no one from the Balkan countries, no one from the Scandinavian area, many countries are not here.

“It’s a challenge which the IAAF Cross Country Committee will discuss and we will also have a seminar before the end of the year to discuss what can be done.

“I was told by my good friend Sebastian Coe that when he was running on the track over 800m and 1500m, his coach used to tell him that he had to do cross country, and long cross country runs over 11 kilometres. “However, now the coaches are telling their athletes not to run cross country.

“I hope that is not because East Africa is winning a lot of the time, but we have to face this challenge and discuss how to bring back more-and-more countries to this event. It is, after all, an easy event to organise.”

Phil Minshull for the IAAF