01 December 2008
Column by Ed Warner as featured in last weeks Athletics Weekly magazine
The end of year awards season is now in full swing as athletic success and supporting endeavour are celebrated throughout the UK and internationally. Last weekend was marked by the IAAF’s prestigious awards at its gala night in Monaco. This Saturday witnesses UKA’s own Annual Awards Dinner, wonderfully supported once again by Heidsieck & Co Monopole Champagne.
While the IAAF awards, like the BAWA awards announced in London last month, crown elite athletes for their successes over the season, the UKA prizes acknowledge the contributions of the volunteers who form the backbone of our sport in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Judging by the surprise and delight of many of last year’s winners, they are just as highly coveted as those carried off by the leading athletes.
Last week I was privileged to be invited to the Mary Peters Stadium in Belfast to assist in the presentation of the Northern Ireland awards. I made the same trip last year and, once again, found it a refreshing opportunity to connect with the grassroots of athletics – a marvellous antidote to much of the high ‘politics’ of the sport which unavoidably absorbs so much of my time.
Those who believe that athletics is in some terminal crisis of declining audiences, drugs scandals and, in Britain, insufficient championship medals, might be advised to dwell on the work and successes of those who sustain our sport in our communities. There is much that is vibrant about athletics away from the elite athletes who attract the spotlight of the national media, giving great promise of a sustainable, healthy future.
I look forward to meeting some of the Northern Ireland award winners again this weekend, as well as their counterparts from Wales, Scotland and England. Congratulations to you all.
We took the opportunity while in Monaco for Charles van Commenee to announce Ian Stewart’s recruitment to lead our endurance strategy. We also held the first meeting of a new endurance advisory group comprising some of Britain’s leading distance runners, chaired by Seb Coe.
I am delighted that a number of distinguished athletes are committing their time and expertise to assist Ian in his mission to revitalise British distance running over the coming years. I’m often told that we have little or no hope of competing successful in endurance with the African nations. However, Paula Radcliffe – a member of the new advisory group – disproves his argument and I am sure that a fresh focus will, in time, lead to an upswing in our overall competitiveness.