Serbian capital to stage global championships after Medulin and Pula in Croatia were forced to pull out
Ten years after staging the European Cross Country Championships, the Serbian capital of Belgrade will now stage its first World Cross Country Championships next year.
A decade ago the city’s Park of Friendship hosted the Euro event, but it will now welcome the world after the original hosts of Medulin and Pula in Croatia was forced to pull out.
Croatian plans have been abandoned after World Athletics earlier this month described their “preparations as not sufficiently advanced”.
Belgrade has jumped to the rescue, though, which means a major athletics event will be held on the banks of the River Danube just a few months after Budapest hosted the global governing body’s flagship track and field championships.
Whereas the Croatian event was due to place on the weekend of February 10-11, the event in Belgrade will be on March 30, which has thrown new year cross-country fixtures into mild turmoil. The British trials, for example, were due to be held on January 20 at Parliament Hill but this now looks likely to be too far away from the championships itself.
When Belgrade held the European Cross Country Championships in 2013 it was the first big athletics event the city had hosted since the European Indoor Games of 1968. I reported at the time: “The Serbian capital put on a decent show with a record entry of 570 athletes across six races on a spectator-friendly course featuring firm ground, surprisingly mild temperatures (mid-December) and a random log that was barely a foot high designed to break the rhythm of runners on each of the 1500m laps.”
The number of spectators was modest, but I added: “There was a reasonable buzz in the Park of Friendship venue, partly due to the large contingent of British spectators, some of whom braved the widely publicised airport signal problems to travel to eastern Europe.”
Britain won twice as many medals at those 2013 championships than their nearest challenger, France, with the star performer being under-20 women’s winner Emelia Gorecka. Less than half a minute behind her, though, team-mate Georgia Taylor-Brown finished a fine fourth despite losing a shoe mid-race. It was the kind of grittiness that would earn Taylor-Brown Olympic medals in triathlon eight years later.
Elsewhere a young Sifan Hassan won the under-23 women’s title less than a month after being cleared…