European Athletics and the European Olympic Committees (EOC) have signed an agreement to introduce an athletics programme for the 2019 European Games that is designed to attract a new, youthful audience.
In December 2016, European Athletics confirmed that it would be part of the second edition of the multi-sport championships, which will be held in Minsk, Belarus, through the introduction of an “innovative event”. Details of this event have now been confirmed with the launch of the ‘Dynamic New Athletics’ programme.
The new mixed gender team-based format will be used for the first time at Minsk 2019, with the intention being that the action on offer will be short, compact and unpredictable. The new format will include 10 events, with a focus on the key concepts of athletics – running, jumping and throwing.
The events have been chosen based on research carried out by European Athletics to establish the most popular disciplines amongst fans, and will take place one by one over a two-hour period. Six track events have been chosen in the form of 100m for men and women, 100m hurdles for women and 110m hurdles for men and a mixed 400m relay consisting of teams made up of two men and two women.
The final track event, a mixed-distance pursuit relay entitled ‘The Hunt’, will also decide the overall winner with points accumulated through the previous nine events determining starting positions.
There will be three field events in the form of women’s long jump, men’s javelin and women’s high jump. These events will play out in a head-to-head, knock-out format. Finally, one combined event entitled the ‘mini’athlon’ will see one man and one woman competing across running, jumping and throwing competitions.
The scoring system will have points ranging from 12 for first place to two for sixth. Organisers said the new concept will include an increased use of technology to encourage the interaction of fans in the stadium and those watching at home. There will be up to 30 mixed gender teams, made up of approximately 23 male and female athletes competing in a knock-out format over five days. Teams will have two chances to qualify from the initial six-team quarter-final round, before the semi-final and final rounds, which will also consist of six teams.
EOC acting president Janez Kocijančič said: “We are delighted to confirm the official collaboration with European Athletics for the Minsk 2019 European Games, where we will see the future of athletics for the very first time. A number of elements of the new format will help take the European Games to the next level after the highly successful inaugural edition in Baku in 2015.
“The great thing about this new format is that it appeals to every level in the sport. This concept is applicable at a grassroots level and we hope that the elite European athletes taking part at the Games will inspire a new generation of athletic talent.”
Athletics is one of 15 sports set to take part at the second edition of the Games, where around 6,000 athletes from 50 countries are due to compete from June 21-30, 2019.
The inaugural European Games saw athletics play a relatively minor role through the inclusion of the European Athletics Team Championships Third League competition. Athletics’ role in the European Games had been questioned with European Athletics a key stakeholder in the new European Championships multi-sport event, which is set to debut in Berlin and Glasgow in 2018.
However, coming in 2019, a year before the Tokyo Olympics, Minsk’s European Games are in a better position to offer qualifying points for the Olympics and thereby attract a higher calibre of athlete.