BRITISH athletes are hoping for a taste of the Olympic Stadium atmosphere at the other end of the country when Gateshead stages Great Britain’s first major athletics championships since London 2012 this weekend.
The hosts have named a strong team for the European Team Championships, which get under way this afternoon, including Olympic gold medallists Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford, as well as Scots Eilidh Child (400m hurdles), Kirsten McAslan (4 x 400m relay), Mark Dry (hammer) and David Bishop (3,000m).
The wall of noise which greeted the two golden boys and their team-mates last summer is, if not still ringing in the ears, certainly fresh in the memory. And this weekend’s squad are looking forward to more fervent home support, albeit in the rather lower key surroundings of the 11,800-capacity Gateshead International Stadium.
“The hype that the Olympics brought, the attention to our sport, the stadium going nuts, it will be interesting to see what it’s like this weekend for an outdoor competition,” Dai Greene, the world 400 metres hurdles champion, said. “Hopefully it will be the same, just on a smaller scale with a smaller number of fans.
“There seems to be more attention for our sport at the moment and that’s a positive thing for us. We love competing in front of crowds like that.”
Neil Black, the UK Athletics performance director, added: “There’s a massive advantage with the crowd – it has to play a role. It did in London, why would it not in Gateshead? There’s a definite thought that it will.”
UKA chief executive Niels de Vos said he expected both days of competition to be sold out, adding: “The people of the North East will want to show they can create the same kind of atmosphere as we experienced at the Olympics.”
Britain finished fourth in the last staging of this event in Stockholm in 2011, 96 points behind winners Russia, but UKA head coach Peter Eriksson is hoping for a top-two finish on home soil. “We are at home, it’s the first time the team is together since the Olympic Games and we have most of our top athletes here,” said Eriksson. “I think we can do better than previously.”
The format of the competition sees 12 teams compete for points, with men’s and women’s scores totalled to determine the overall winner of the Super League.