Paris’ European Athletics Championships cancelled, Diamond League events postponed

General view of Charlety during the Meeting of Paris on June 30, 2018 (Photo by Johnny Fidelin/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

This year’s European Athletics Championships in the French capital of Paris, which were scheduled to take place from August 25-30, have been cancelled.

The event was due to be held at Paris’ Charlety Stadium but the local organising committee and the French Athletics Federation (FFA) have decided to cancel the Championships amid the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A decision was taken following a meeting between the relevant French authorities. European Athletics and the local organising committee had been evaluating all possible options for staging the event as planned but it was ultimately decided that this was not feasible due to the risks posed by Covid-19 and the current ban on mass gatherings in France.

The FFA’s medical commission also evaluated the potential risks for spectators and accredited personnel at the event and this was taken into account when cancelling the Championships.

Jean Gracia, president of the Paris 2020 organising committee, told L’Equipe: “We fought to the end to maintain the championships but we decided to cancel.

“We had thought about changing the location of the athletes accommodation [planned to be at Cité Universitaire], to limit their number during the competition or even to sell only one seat out of two in the stadium. We wanted to give all athletes something interesting at the end of the season. Unfortunately, this will not be the case.”

Gracia said that a postponement until 2021 had been briefly considered but that it was not clear if the uncertainties around the health crisis would clear up by then.

The local organising committee budget for the event was €17m ($18.3m) but Gracia intimated that state funding guarantees would provide financial protection.

The cancellation – as opposed to a postponement – now leaves European Athletics to liaise with its broadcast rights-holders and sponsors over any financial compensation. The European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mainly public broadcasters, is the worldwide media rights-holder of the event and has already committed to a deal that runs to 2027.

European Athletics’ executive board last month requested a feasibility study to determine whether the event could be held as planned. The governing body said at the time that a potential postponement of the Championships would be considered but the event has now been cancelled outright.

European Athletics interim president Dobromir Karamarinov said last night: “We had hoped in these troubled times to offer European athletes a major event to aim for at the end of this summer. Unfortunately, today we were informed by the LOC and French athletics federation that, after discussions with the relevant French national and local public health and safety authorities, they were no longer able to proceed with delivering the championships this August and were forced to cancel the event.”

The European Athletics Council will discuss the cancellation and other challenges facing the sport at its next meeting, which will take place via video conference on May 7-8.

Elsewhere in athletics, the Diamond League has been forced to suspend meetings in the US city of Eugene on June 7 and Paris on June 13. New dates for the events will be announced in cooperation with the World Athletics Global Calendar Unit when it is possible to draw up a reliable plan for the resumption of the sport.

The Diamond League’s planned meeting in Oslo, Norway had already been suspended and organisers of that event have proposed an innovative new competition as a replacement.

Oslo’s Bislett Games had been due to take place on June 11 but a new, behind-closed doors exhibition event dubbed ‘The Impossible Games’ is being planned instead.

The event, which will observe social distancing rules and Covid-19 regulations, is set to include a world record attempt from Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm and a long-distance pole vault battle between Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie. The hour-long event will be covered by Norwegian public-service broadcaster NRK.