A warm and sunny day greeted International Association of Athletics Federations General Secretary Essar Gabriel and IAAF Council member Abby Hoffman on their visit to Hayward Field on Thursday in advance of the IAAF World Junior Championships, which will be held at Eugene’s prestigious track and field venue from July 22-27. TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna and Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy hosted Gabriel and Hoffman, and all four spoke at The Powell Plaza entrance to Hayward Field in addition to Springfield mayor Christine Lundberg.
“This summer is going to be really an exciting time, some might say the best year ever for track and field at Hayward Field,” Lananna said in his opening statement. “As you’re standing below these gates here, you might kind of unceremoniously walk through, but this is actually really a great place. So many great things have happened here and this summer is going to be no exception.”
July’s IAAF Junior World Championships will be the first time that the event has ever been held in the United States and Piercy was extremely excited for Eugene to be the host of such a momentous occasion.
“I am very proud to call myself mayor of TrackTown USA,” Piercy said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the world to our friendly community. I’ve already been boasting to them that not only do we have a lot of talent here, but we’re a very friendly community that will embrace them and make everyone feel welcome in our area.”
Approximately 170 countries from around the globe will be represented at the six-day competition, which will feature the world’s best track and field athletes, age 19 and under. Since its inception in 1986, 17 world record-holders have participated at the IAAF World Junior Championships, including Usain Bolt, David Rudisha and Allyson Felix.
“These are the athletes who will be the stars of tomorrow,” Hoffman said. “Many of them — and you’ll see this when they are performing here this summer — are already very, very outstanding athletes in their own right. So it’s very critical for us that this event be staged in a place that acknowledges the level of performance of these junior athletes and also provides them with the conditions to perform at their best. As I stand here at the gates to Hayward Field, I think it’s fair to say that the iconic and inspiring nature of this venue is going to add a real flavor and extra significance to this particular edition of the World Junior Championships and Athletics.”
Hoffman indicated after opening statements that one of the benefits of Eugene hosting the event was that the athletes would have minimal transportation issues given that they will be housed on the University of Oregon campus.
“Everybody can basically walk from their dorm room to the facility for both training and competition,” Hoffman said. “From that standpoint, it’s really ideal in terms of athletes being able to focus on their competition and not having to worry about logistical impediments like taking buses to travel across the big city.”
“This is history in the making,” Gabriel said. “TrackTown is going to meet the IAAF and I think it’s a proud moment of which we —the representatives of the IAAF— are looking forward to. With 180 nations competing here in the good spirit and taking the baton from Barcelona, Spain of the previous edition. We will be seeing 2,500 team officials and athletes gracing this place and looking to indeed add a page in the history of this great city of Eugene and Springfield. So TrackTown, here we come!”
Follow Chris Mosch on Twitter @chris_mosch