Berlin: 65,000 tickets sold

65,000 tickets sold; temperatures over 30°C; Berlin sizzles in expectation of ÅF Golden League start

Jeremy Wariner at the DKB-ISTAF press conference in Berlin (Bob Ramsak)

Related News Berlin, Germany - The ÅF Golden League is set to start with a flourish on Sunday 1 June in the German capital’s magnificent Olympic stadium, as much of the cream of the world’s elite sets out on the hunt for the $1 Million ÅF Golden League Jackpot.

At today’s international press conference to launch the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting organisers confirmed that over 65,000 tickets had already been sold and that with exceptionally sunny weather and soaring temperatures (which are already over 30°C), the expectation is that even last year’s record 70,000+ crowd might be overtaken!

Two hours LIVE on German TV

The DKB-ISTAF Berlin which is the first of six meetings of the ÅF Golden League in 2008 has moved date for this year’s edition. In 2007 the Golden League had its finale in the 1936 Olympic stadium in September, and now the event has moved to the beginning of June and acts as the curtain raiser in 2008.

“The situation will be better than last year,” confirmed meeting Director Gerhard Janetzky, “because firstly as its now an early season meeting many athletes will come to compete here for the first time in their careers, and secondly also for the first time in the history of ISTAF we have two hours LIVE coverage on German television. In the past it has been one hour or even a bit less. The athletes, the audience, and the TV people love this early season date and so we are very happy with it.”

“The weather for all outdoor events can always be a difficulty but we have been blessed in the past. Last year it started raining just as the competition finished and this year there will be no rain at all. The forecast chances of rain are below 6% for Sunday, and the temperature will be about 31, so perhaps a bit hot for long distance but for the sprints and the jumps it is about perfect. Irving Saladino is very happy as the weather is like being in his native Panama,” confirmed Janetzky with a smile.

Demonstration threat

The only possible hinderence to a record attendence is an anti-global warming demonstration which will take place across the city on Sunday which will see Berlin’s roads clogged with over 250,000 campaigners who will take to the streets on bicycles.

“The major transport arteries into and across the city will be blocked on Sunday,” confirmed Jürgen Scheunemann, the meeting’s Media Director, and this could hinder the arrival of the 35,000+ of the spectators who are travelling from outside the capital.

Star guest list

Saladino, the World Long Jump champion, was one of a number of international top guest names at this afternoon’s press conference which was held at the Hotel Estrel, Berlin. The stars were brought to meet the international press in a succession of four waves which most clearly demonstrated the high level of talent which has been assembled for this opening to the ÅF Golden League season.

In order came, sprint hurdlers David Oliver (USA), Thomas Blaschek (GER), then Saladino and javelin man Tero Pitkämäki (FIN), followed by 400m runners Angelo Taylor (USA) and LaShawn Merritt (USA), and finally, in a solo appearance, Jeremy Wariner (USA). The only minor query about this weighty selection of track and field standouts being, “where were the female athletes”, as plenty of top names will also grace the women’s programme on Sunday.

“The way the ÅF Golden League is set up this year it’s great” - Wariner

“My goal is to win both the Golden League Jackpot and the Olympics this year,” confirmed the reigning World and Olympic 400m champion Wariner. “Back in 2006 I won the Golden League and I would like to do it again this year.”

“The first step for me besides this race here (Berlin) is to make the Olympic team at the US Trials this year and after that I’ll worry about the rest of it. The way the Golden League is set up this year, it’s great to have two competitions before the Trials and then two more before the Olympic Games, it will help me see where I am at and to get a feel for my competition (opponents).”

For all the US athletes here today, the significant hurdle of the extremely competitive first three ‘past the post’ qualification system of the US Olympic Trials is obviously weighing heavily on how they plan their seasons.

“You can’t concentrate on just anyone” - Oliver

David Oliver, who was fourth in the World Championships last summer and is currently the fastest 110m Hurdler in the world this year (12.95 seconds), confirmed “the main goal is the Trials and anything beyond that is not yet a focus until after July 5 / 6 in Eugene (his racing days).”

“I want to race well here in Berlin, and clean up some technical aspects of my race.”

As to the challengers on Sunday which include Cuba’s rising star Dayron Robles, Oliver would not be specifically drawn. “Everyone in any top race like the one here is a top competitor. You have to race all the other lanes. You can’t concentrate on just anyone.”

Germany’s Thomas Blaschek, the European 110m Hurdles silver medallist, who is one of the featured athletes on the cover of this year’s meeting literature, had only one aim in Berlin - “to beat the Beijing qualification standard (must run once 13.50 sec and once 13.45 sec in 2008) set by Germany, that is my goal in Berlin.”

However, by the time that the 27-year-old gets into his blocks on Sunday he might have already cleared one of these barriers as tonight along with Oliver he competes in the international meeting in Dessau, which takes place about one hour’s drive from Berlin.

ÅF Golden League competitions are “really good training for the Olympics” – Irving Saladino

“I was really surprised when I saw my result (in Hengelo 8.73m) last weekend). I felt strong that day, I felt I could do a good job and and a very good jump, maybe 8.60m but then when I saw the 8.73, I was really surprised, as in the end it just felt so easy," commented Saladino. “Perhaps this Sunday it’s possible for me to go even further.”

“My goal (this season) is to win all the six Golden League competitions,” continued the World champion. “It is really good training for the Olympic Games. My strategy in each meet will be to get in a really good first jump,” confirmed Saladino.

Step by step for Pitkämäki

World Javelin Throw champion Tero Pitkämäki also has a very straight forward aim for Berlin. “Mine is a simple strategy to throw far!” said the Finn with a grin on his face.

After winning four meets last year in the Golden League but losing twice to Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, Pitkämäki knows that Berlin will be “a great competition. He (Thorkildsen) wants to crush me I hear, well we’ll see on Sunday…”. As to the $1 Million ÅF Golden League Jackpot, “I’ll be taking it step by step this season,” concluded Pitkämäki.

Double for Taylor

As to the remaining two guests, LaShawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor, well they agreed it’s not going to be an easy 400m competition on Sunday.

“It’s the Golden League this year so every Golden League meet is going to be a tough race,” said Merritt, the World 400m silver medallist.

For Taylor the World 400m bronze medallist in Osaka last year behind Wariner and Merritt, the ordeal will be even greater. The 2000 Olympic 400m Hurdles champion will go for a 400m flat / 400m Hurdles double in Berlin, and also intends to take on the same challenge at the USA Olympic Trials!

“The 400m Hurdles takes place first (in the programme) both here and at the Trials, so that gives me confidence (for the task) and my training is going very well. I just focus on my training and don’t think about anything else at the moment.”

Chris Turner for the IAAF


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