RUNNING

International Athletics Returns to Quake-Hit City

Friday 16 September 2011, 9:17AM
By International Track Meet
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CHRISTCHURCH

New Zealand’s premier track and field event, the International Track Meet, will remain in quake-hit Christchurch for 2012. It was announced today that the ITM will take place on Saturday 4 February in historic surroundings in the central city at Christ’s College, one of New Zealand’s oldest private schools. The event will be held for the first time on a grass track on the 50th anniversary weekend of Peter Snell’s two world records set on grass in Christchurch in 1962. As one of the few top level sporting events to be confirmed for Christchurch next year, organisers expect the meet to be a wonderful boost to the sporting public.

New Zealand’s top athletics stars, Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis and three times world champion shot putter Valerie Adams are very supportive of the event and have already indicated their intention to be involved, and are looking forward to an opportunity to put smiles on the faces of Christchurch residents. Adams had been scheduled to compete at this event for the first time in 2011, while Willis has been a driving force behind it since its inception in 2009, and had been scheduled to be presented with his newly minted Olympic silver medal at the 2011 meet.

The 2011 International Track Meet was one of the event casualties of the Christchurch Earthquake with the destruction of QEII Stadium just four days before the event was due to be held. Now the International Track and Field Trust, established to ensure the event entrenches its place in the NZ sporting calendar, believes that the retention of the meet will be just the tonic that the city needs. The trustees said today that when it became clear that QEII would be unavailable, they looked for an alternative stadium elsewhere in New Zealand but ultimately decided that it was important to keep the event in the city, both for the people of Christchurch and to demonstrate to the world that Christchurch is still open for business. “Holding the International Track Meet on the grass track at Christ’s College on such a special anniversary for NZ athletics will enable us to create something really unique and exciting for Christchurch out of difficult circumstances”, said trustee Paul Coughlan. “The crowd will be much closer to the athletes and we are aiming to create some of the feel of the provincial grass track meets of the 1960’s.”

The historical significance was a factor in setting the date, which will be the day after the 50th anniversary of Snell’s 800m and 880yds world records, set at Lancaster Park in 1962. A commemorative function to mark that date is planned to be held in conjunction with the meet, on the Friday evening, and there will also be celebrations in Wanganui the previous weekend, the anniversary of his world record for the mile, also run on grass at the legendary Cook’s Gardens.

Tickets will be on sale in December, with sponsorship and hosting packages currently available, and ticketholders from the 2011 event who have retained their tickets will be able to exchange these for a ticket to the 2012 event free of charge. Full details are available on the meet website www.internationaltrackmeet.co.nz.