This is the time of year when reflection on the 12 months that have just past takes place and there is eager anticipation about what is to come so I would like to close the chapter on 2020 – I think we can all agree, a year of turmoil in so many different ways – and look ahead to 2021 by briefly doing just that.
On a human note, 2020 was the year when European Athletics lost two much-loved and larger than life personalities.
In June, after a typically brave battle following a stroke a few months earlier, we lost our Viking leader Svein Arne Hansen, only just into his second term as European Athletics President following re-election in 2019.
At the end of November, and after a long battle against serious illness, we also lost the ever-smiling Frank Hensel, a stalwart of our Council and the Executive Board. Both men dedicated their life to athletics and are sorely missed by everyone connected to the sport as well as their families and friends.
From a sporting perspective the European Athletics calendar in 2020 was heavily impacted by COVID-19, forcing the postponement or cancellation of many events including our flagship European Athletics Championships that had been scheduled for late summer in Paris.
In the absence of live action, we tried to continue engaging athletics fans by mining our archives so that we could rediscover and treasure great moments from the past, we watched ingenious virtual events and were entertained and enthralled by the social media coverage of elite athletes training at home, but nothing beats real competition.
I am confident we will see a return to live events in 2021 and I have made this my main priority for the coming year.
We have already been working hard with the Local Organising Committee to ensure that we can safely stage the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland from 5-7 March.
This will be our first major test since the pandemic engulfed the world and I know that European athletes will be looking forward to returning to the continental stage as they start to set their sights on the re-scheduled Olympic Games now taking place later in the summer.
This year also sees a full schedule of other competitions that come under the aegis of European Athletics.
Just to specifically mention a few, the European Athletics Under 18, 20 and 23 Championships are all scheduled for this summer as are all the Leagues of the European Athletics Team Championships, with Poland defending their Super League crown on home soil in the magnificent Slaski Stadium in Silesia, and the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Dublin.
Of course, this is all dependent on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves. However, some major athletics events did take place late in 2020 and these have shown by example that by using sanitary protocols, working closely with national and local health authorities, and now with the roll-out of an extensive vaccination programme, a return to live events is possible.
Whatever course the pandemic takes in 2021 and, as we have seen in recent months, no one can be exactly sure which direction it will take, at European Athletics we will be trying our very best to stage all of our scheduled events this year with the athletes always at the top of our considerations.
Talking of athletes, another major priority in 2021 is the safeguarding of European athletes and to this purpose we have already started collaborating with International Olympic Committee Executive Board Member HRH Prince Feisal and the IOC Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport (PHAS) Working Group.
As we start a New Year full of hope, I send the entire athletics family my best wishes for a healthy, prosperous, and successful 2021.
European Athletics Interim President