ALSO ON SLAM!
Monday, August 30, 1999
2001 here we come!
They're our worlds now.
Mayor Bill Smith broke all protocol by grabbing the microphone after International Amateur Athletic Federation President Primo Nebiolo presented him the IAAF flag. Smith tried to say '`thank you'' in Spanish and French. But he didn't drop-kick the flag.
'`He was holding it too tight,'' said Edmonton 2001 chairman Jack Agrios, who accompanied the mayor.
Agrios, near tears, called it '`the thrill of a lifetime.
'`Just knowing that the world was watching and that the world will be watching Edmonton ... '' he choked, unable to finish the sentence.
'`That's the most thrilling moment of my life,'' said Smith.
'`To hold that flag and know that we're going to hold this event next ... it was just a wonderful, wonderful moment.
'`I'm so proud.''
'`I'm going to hang that flag at City Hall even if we have to build a new flagpole.''
Nebiolo, passing the flag to Smith, said: '`I pass this to you, Mr. Mayor, to take care of and provide the championships of 2001. Good luck.''
'`I promise Dr. Nebiolo they'll be the best ever,'' said Smith. ``I know,'' said Nebiolo.
There isn't really much of a closing ceremonies at the World Championships in Athletics. There's a full schedule of events on the last day - all finals. And there's an almost endless parade to the podium for medal ceremonies.
The entire affair took 30 minutes. They paraded in the 204 flags of the countries involved, brought back inflatable props from the opening ceremonies, heard a short speech from Nebiolo thanking Spain, brought the flag down the pole, paraded it with torches to the podium, presented it to Smith, showed a short, first-rate film of Edmonton and fired off a couple of grand worth of fireworks.
It was all short and sweet and it worked.
And now Edmonton is the host city.
The Edmonton 2001 contingent heads home having done their homework and knowing if they do the job, our city will win rave reviews around the world.
The fact is, while there were magic days here with near-full stands for the 1500 metres and the marathon, there were dead days too - and more than a few.
The Worlds, after tremendous events in Helsinki, Tokyo, Rome, Athens, Gothenburg and especially Stuttgart, has now had back-to-back poorly-organized, badly attended duds.
I know Canada doesn't have a track and field culture. I know Edmonton doesn't really understand what a huge event this is, or what a massive organizing job is required.
But I know how great the No.-3-ranked sports event on the planet - behind the Olympics and World Cup of Soccer - is, when there is a capacity crowd in pleasant weather in an environment of friendly citizens who enjoy welcoming the world.
The key is to fill the stadium - then everybody wins.
And after this taste of what's ahead for the City of Champions and Championships, the key is to educate Edmonton about what an exceptional experience we will enjoy Aug. 3-12, 2001.
'`That's our challenge,'' said Edmonton 2001 CEO Rick LeLacheur, of filling Commonwealth Stadium.
Their goal is to have it sold out months in advance.
'`Who knows if we can do it or not? All we know for sure is that when it's been close to full here, it's been a lot of fun, very enjoyable and very entertaining. We want everybody in Edmonton to have that experience, to be part of that kind of environment.
'`In my mind we have three major things to do in the next year.
'`The planning is critical. We're going to have such a short window at Commonwealth Stadium, with World Cup soccer qualifying camps and Eskimo games, we're going to have to plan, plan, plan. so we can take out the seats for the media and have the entire setup, all the wiring, everything ready to install almost overnight.
'`And it'll be like that in every area in and around our stadium. If we haven't planned perfectly it could cost a lot of money to make last-minute changes.
SOME HAS BEEN DONE
'`Educating Edmonton and Alberta to what this event is ... hopefully some of that has been done while we've been here. I guess we won't know how large that job is until we get home.''
That's home to Edmonton, home of the 8th IAAF World Championships in Athletics.