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June 2009

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History of the European Athletics Championships Print E-mail
The European Athletics Championships are the Continent’s most important athletics event and the highlight of the EAA’s competition programme.

The idea of holding a European Athletics Championships was devised in 1933, with Hungarian official Szilard Stankovits as the prime mover, and the first Championships took place in Torino, Italy, in 1934. The European Athletics Championships has been held every four years since, except for a gap during World War II and an increased frequency in 1969 and 1971.

Seven countries, including this year’s host Sweden, have had the honour of staging the Championships twice: Italy (Torino 1934 and Rome 1974), Finland (Helsinki 1971 and 1994), Germany (Stuttgart 1986 and Munich 2002), Greece (Athens 1969 and 1982), Hungary (Budapest 1966 and 1998), Sweden (Stockholm 1958 and Göteborg 2006) and Yugoslavia (Belgrade 1962 and Split 1990).

Since the inaugural Championships, 34 World and 17 European records have been set. Click here for a list of the records.

The European Athletic Association would like to thank former General Secretary Till Lufft and athletics statistician Bob Phillips for their work in putting together this review of the 18 European Athletics Championships that have taken place to date. Of course such a review cannot be complete and readers will no doubt have other memories of Europe’s top athletics event.


All European Athletics Championships since 1934

1 st European Athletics Championships
Torino , Italy - Stadio Benito Mussolini, 7-9 September 1934

The 1 st European Athletics Championships took place in Torino, Italy, in 1934 and included competitions for men only. Great Britain and the USSR did not send teams but there were 23 competing nations. Germany and Finland were the dominating powers, winning 12 of the 22 titles between them.

Luigi Beccali, the Italian world record holder, became the first European champion ever, when he won the 1500m from Miklos Szabo (HUN) at 16:50 on the first day of the Championships. Torino also saw the first world record at a European Athletics Championships when Matti Järvinen (FIN) won the javelin with 76.66m.

Shortly before the Championships, Christiaan Berger (NED) and Harald Andersson (SWE) had become the first Europeans to set official world records for the 100m and the discus respectively and they were both gold medallists in Torino, Berger doing the sprint double. Meanwhile, Germany’s Hans-Heinrich Sievert added the decathlon title to the three world records he had set in the past year. Estonia took medals in the shot and Latvia in the 50km walk, reflecting a strength in the sport in the Baltic states which has endured ever since.


2 nd European Athletics Championships
Paris, France - Stade Olympic de Colombes, 3-5 September 1938 (men)
Vienna, Austria – Praterstadion, 17-18 September 1938 (women)

In 1938, women participated in the European Athletics Championships for the first time, though their events were held in Vienna two weeks after the men’s competition in Paris. As in 1934, Germany topped the medal table followed by Finland.

Highlights of the men’s events included Matti Järvinen (FIN) defending his javelin title and Sydney Wooderson (GBR), at that time world record holder in the 800m, winning the 1500m title. The 800m was won by the young German Rudolf Harbig, who a year later in Milano would set a new world record of 1.46.6 that stood until August 1955. Both Wooderson and Harbig set new championship records, as did Wooderson’s team mates Godfrey Brown in the 400m and Don Finlay in 110m hurdles (his time of 14.3 was also a European record); Harbig’s team mate Karl Hein in the hammer; and Finns Taisto Mäki in the 5000m and Ilmari Salminen in the 10000m.

Stella Walasiewicz (POL) was the star in Vienna, collecting two golds (100m/200m) and two silvers (long jump and 4x100m). There was a world record for Claudia Testoni (ITA) in the 80m hurdles (11.6) though the time was oddly never ratified and neither was the winning mark of 1.70m in the high jump for the rather more apparent reason that Dora Ratjen (GER) changed sex very soon afterwards. The event also witnessed the birth of another star, when the young Dutch girl, Fanny Koen took third in both the 100m and 200m. Soon she was known as the “Flying Housewife” and would go on to win a total of five European titles in 1946 and 1950 and four Olympic gold medals in London (1948).


3 rd European Athletics Championships
Oslo , Norway - Bislet Idrettsplass, 22-25 August 1946

As a result of World War II, the European Athletics Championships were not held again until 1946, when Oslo played host to 20 nations. Despite the long time since the previous edition, many of the stars from 1938 were still active and in very good shape. Among them was Sydney Wooderson (GBR), who this time captured the 5000m title in the second fastest time ever in the only 5000m race of his life. Adolfo Consolini (ITA), who had placed fifth in the discus in 1938 and would better the world record a total of three times between 1941 and 1948, won the first of his three European titles in Oslo. Making his international debut with fifth place in the 5000m was the young Czech Emil Zatopek. He would go on to win three European titles, four Olympic gold medals and set numerous world records from 5000m to 30km. Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED) won her first European title in the 80m hurdles.

For the first time a Soviet team took part in the Championships and with six titles and 17 medals in total, the debut was a success. The most successful team, however, was Sweden, which took eleven titles and 22 medals in total despite the absence of one of the spot’s biggest stars, the world record holder at the 1500m and 5000m Gunder Hägg and his team mate Arne Andersson who had been banned by the IAAF for an offence against the then valid Amateur Rules. Despite their absence, Sweden still won the gold and silver medals in the 1500m through future world record holder Lennart Strand and future Olympic champion Henry Eriksson.


4 th European Athletics Championships
Brussels, Belgium - Stade du Heysel, 23-27 August 1950

Fanny Blankers-Koen was the women's star in Brussels, winning three titles (100m/200m/80mh). Dorothy Odam-Tyler (GBR), who in the 1936 Olympic Games took the silver medal in the high jump despite having matched the winning mark, jumped 1.63m, the same height cleared by her countrywoman Sheila Alexander, but again had to settle for second place on count back. Two years later, the unlucky Odam-Tyler suffered the same fate in the Olympic Games in London.

The "Czech locomotive", Emil Zatopek, won the 5000 and 10,000m titles and his ‘shadow’ Alain Mimoun was second in both races. A staggering 800m final saw a young promising middle distance runner in third place: Roger Bannister (GBR), who would become the first sub four minute miler four years later. At the age of 43, Jack Holden (GBR) won the marathon. He remains the oldest ever European champion.

Great Britain topped the medal table with eight Golds and 17 medals in total.


5 th European Athletics Championships
Bern , Switzerland – Neufeld Stadion, 25-29 August 1954

For the first time after the war, Germany was allowed to return to the Championships. Heinz Fütterer (FRG) won both sprint events and equalled the European 200m record (20.9). After running the first sub four minute mile a couple of weeks before, 25-year-old Roger Bannister (GBR) won the 1500m. It was one of the last races of his career as he retired from running at the end of the year to pursue his medical studies full-time. Vladimir Kuts (URS) won the 5000m in a world record time of 13:56.6 and Emil Zatopek (TCH) won the 10000m at his final European Championships. Michael Krivonosov (URS) set a world record of 63.34m in the hammer.

For the first time, the 800m was held for women and it was won by Nina Otkalenko (URS) in 2:08.8. Dana Zatopkova (TCH) dominated the javelin as she had at the Olympic Games two years earlier in Helsinki, where she and husband Emil, both won gold medals within two hours.

The Soviet team had unprecedented, and since unrepeated, success winning 16 titles, eight each in the men’s and women’s events.


6 th European Athletics Championships
Stockholm , Sweden - Olympic Stadium, 19-24 August 1958

Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak (POL) became the second athlete to win both the 5000m and 10,000m titles at the same Championships, while Jerzy Chromik underlined Poland’s distance running strength in winning the 3000m steeplechase. Igor Ter-Ovanesyan (URS) won the first of three long jump titles (1958, 1962, 1969). Martin Lauer (GER) set one of two European records with 13.7 seconds in the 110m hurdles.

In the women’s events, Dana Zatopkova (TCH) defended her javelin title with a new European record (56.02m). World record holder Jolanda Balas (ROM) cleared all heights until 1.77m at the first attempt and failed only with her attempt to set a new world record at 1.80m to take high jump gold.

The Soviets again won the most titles (11), while Poland surprised with eight wins. And to the delight of the spectators in Stockholm Olympic Stadium, Sweden doubled its medal tally and had it most successful championships to date.


7 th European Athletics Championships
Belgrade , Yugoslavia – Stadion INA, 12-16 September 1962

Salvatore Morale (ITA) equalled the 400m hurdles world record with 49.2 and Gyulai Zsivotzky (HUN) set a new European record of 69.64m in the hammer with his first throw (69.64). Janis Lusis (URS) had four attempts that were better than the next competitor’s best performance in the javelin and his victory marked the beginning of a long and successful career. Only four points or 5/10 of a second decided the decathlon between Werner von Moltke (FRG) and Vassily Kusnezov (URS), who won the event a third time in a row. Indicating his great possibilities, Gaston Roelants (BEL) dominated the 3000m steeplechase.

Maria Itkina (URS) won the 400m, equalling the world record (53.4) and Tamara Press equalled her own shot put world record (18.55m). Gerda Kraan (HOL) set a new European record to win the 800m (2:02.8) and there was also a new European 4x100m record of 44.5 for Poland.

The USSR topped the medal table for the third time in a row.


8 th European Athletics Championships
Budapest , Hungary - Népstadium Stadion, 30 August – 4 September 1966

30 nations participated in the 8 th European Athletics Championships in Budapest. Pole Irena Kirszenstein-Szewinska won her first three European gold medals (200m, long jump, 4x100m). She went on to become perhaps the most successful European athlete of all time - at the European Athletics Championships she took five gold, one silver and four bronze medals, while at four Olympic Games she won seven medals, among them three gold.

Roger Bambuck (FRA) was the new sprint star, winning two gold (200m and 4x100m) and a silver (100m), while his team-mate Jocelyn Delecour said goodbye finally, at his third Championships, winning a gold medal with the French 4x100 relay team. Lynn Davies, the 1964 Olympic champion, interrupted Igor Ter-Ovanesian’s (URS) winning streak in the long jump and captured the European title. Vilmos Varju (HUN) won gold for the host country in the shot.

For the first time, the East Germans participated with their own team and claimed the most titles with eight. In the men’s discus, the GDR had a clean sweep (Detlef Thorit, 57.52m; Hartmut Losch, 57.34m; Lothar Milde, 56.80m). This was matched by the West Germans in the decathlon (Werner von Moltke, 7740; Jörg Mattheis, 7614; Horst Beyer, 7562). Vera Nikolic (YUG) became the youngest ever European champion when she won the 800m at the age of 17 years and 346 days.


9 th European Athletics Championships
Athens , Greece - Stadion G. Karaiskakis, 16-21 September 1969

Eight world records in five events highlighted the 9 th European Athletics Championships. Anatoliy Bondarchuk (URS) was the only man to set a world record with 74.68m in the hammer. On the women’s side there was a string of world records: 51.7 in the 400m for both Nicole Duclos and Colette Besson (FRA), 13.3 in the 100m hurdles for Karin Balzer (GDR), 4:10.7 in the new 1500m event for Jaroslava Jehlicková (TCH), 20.10m and 20.43m in the shot put for Nadezhda Chizhova (URS). The world record was in fact broken three times in the 4x400m, with France and Great Britain both running 3:30.8 in the final.

The GDR extended its medal collection with 11 gold, seven silver and seven bronze. A total of 21 countries won medals.


10 th European Athletics Championships
Helsinki , Finland – Olympic Stadium, 10-15 August 1971

The undisputed star of the championships was Juha Väätäinen (FIN), who delighted his home crowd with his spectacular finishes in both the 5000m and 10,000m and reawakened Finnish distance running glory. In seventh place in the 5000m was Lasse Viren, a young Finn whose days were yet to come. Valeriy Borzov (URS) and Renate Stecher (GDR) also took two titles each as both captured the 100m and 200m.

Three world records were set: 4:09.6 in the 1500m by Karin Burneleit (GDR), the GDR 4x400m women’s relay team clocked 3:29.3 and Faina Melnik (URS) threw 64.22m in the discus. Two more European records were achieved: 21.08m by Hartmut Briesenik (GDR) in the shot put and the FRG 4x100m women’s relay team clocked 43.3 seconds. Janis Lusis (URS) won the javelin for the fourth time in a row (90.68m), while the GDR again topped the medal table.


11 th European Athletics Championships
Roma , Italy – Stadio Olympico, 19-24 August 1974

Irena Szewinska again dominated the sprints, this time beating Olympic champion Renate Stecher (GDR) in both the 100m and 200m. Then she ran an incredible 48.6 second split for the Polish 4x400m relay team. Three world records were set by athletes from the GDR, by Rosemarie Witschas in the high jump (1.95m), Ruth Fuchs in the javelin throw (67.22m) and by the women’s 4x100m relay team (42.51). Valeriy Borzov (URS) won his third consecutive 100m title. Alan Pascoe (GBR) continued British hurdles glory by winning the 400m hurdles ahead of the defending champion Jean-Claude Nallet (FRA).

For the fourth consecutive championships, the GDR topped the medal table with 10 golds and 27 medals in total.


12 th European Athletics Championships
Praha , Czechoslovakia - Rosicky Stadium, 19 August – 3 September 1978

1000 athletes participated in the 1978 Championships in Prague and 40,000 enthusiastic spectators witnessed four world records in the women's events. In the 400m Marita Koch (GDR) took women’s 400m running into a new dimension when she ran the first sub 49 second performance for one lap (48.94). High jumper Sara Simeoni (ITA) had to equal her own world record of 2.01m to win over Rosemarie Ackermann (GDR), who the year before became the first ever woman to clear two metres and here jumped 1.99m. Tatyana Zelentsova (URS) ran 54.89 to break the 400m hurdles world record and the fourth record was delivered by long jumper Vilma Bardauskiene (URS), who jumped 7.09m in the qualification for the record and won the final with superb 6.88m. Ruth Fuchs’ (GDR) fifth throw of 69.16m in the javelin was only 16cm short of the existing world record and meant a new European record.

Irena Szewinska (POL) brought her medals total to a record breaking ten, while Pietro Mennea (ITA) succeeded Valeriy Borzov (URS) as Europe’s best sprinter by winning the 100m and 200m. Johanna Klier (GDR) had to run 12.62 twice to win the 100m hurdles - after a protest the final was re-run the following day and Klier won again in exactly the same time.

The USSR and GDR won a third of the available gold medals each with 12, the USSR taking 34 medals in total and the GDR 33.


13 th European Athletics Championships
Athens , Greece - Olympic Stadium, 6-12 September 1982

80,000 spectators had to wait until the fifth attempt in the women’s javelin competition for Greece’s first ever European Championship gold medal. Then, with a new championships record of 70.02m, Anna Verouli (GRE) took the lead. No other competitor could respond. Shortly afterwards her team mate, Sofia Sakorafa, won the bronze medal with a 67.04m throw. Thunderous applause rewarded the two Greek athletes. The biggest upset came in the 800m, where in a tactical race world record holder Sebastian Coe (GBR) could not respond to the final sprint of the German Hans-Peter Ferner.

A total of four world records were set. Daley Thomson won his first European title with a new record of 8744 points by adding 21 points to the previous record of Jürgen Hingsen (FRG) who came second. Marita Koch lowered her own world record in the 400m to 48.15 and the women’s 4x400m relay was won by the GDR in a record time of 3:19.05. Ten years after her Olympic gold medal in Munich, Ulrike Meyfarth (FRG) set a new world record with 2.02m in the high jump. Harald Schmid’s (FRG) new European record in the 400m hurdles (47.48) which would last almost 13 years before it was bettered to 47.37 by Stéphane Diagana (FRA).

The two German teams topped the medal table with USSR in third place, the GDR winning its highest ever number of golds with 13.


14 th European Athletics Championships
Stuttgart , Germany – Neckarstadion, 26-31 August 1986.

A firework of top results and surprises delighted the sell-out crowd in Stuttgart's Neckarstadion for the 14 th European Athletics Championships. Four world and two European records highlighted these Championships. Heike Drechsler (GDR) equalled the existing 200m record with 21.71 and Marina Stepanova (URS), who in 1979 had set the her 400m hurdles record under her maiden name of Makeyeva only to lose it in 1980, lowered the existing mark of Sabine Busch (GDR) to 53.32 by beating her into second place. Fatima Whitbread (GBR) set a javelin world record (77.44m) in her qualification group. However, to also win the title on the next day she had a tough battle with the previous record holder, Petra Felke (GDR), finally ensuring the title with a throw of 76.32m in the last round.

The fourth world record, which still stands today, was set in the breathtaking hammer duel between Sergey Litvinov (URS) and his countryman Yuri Sedykh. Litvinov opened the competition with a throw of 85.74m and held the lead until the fourth round when Sedykh released the massive 86.74m world record throw, which is still the world record.

European Records were set by Klaus Tafelmeier (FRG) with the new specification javelin (84.76m) and by Stéphane Caristan (FRA), who hurdled the 110m in 13.20. Sebastian Coe (GBR) finally won a European title, beating off team mates Tom McKean and Steve Cram. Sergey Bubka (URS) beat his elder brother Vasiliy in the pole vault and Linford Christie won his first European title in the 100m. Harald Schmid (FRG) won his third 400m hurdles title in a row and so did Marlies Göhr (GDR) in the 100m. Swiss Werner Günthör shocked his opponents with a 22.22m toss in the second round of the shot put and neither Olympic champion Udo Beyer nor World Record holder Ulf Timmermann (both GDR) found an answer. The women’s 10, 000m took place for the first time and was won by Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen in 30:23.25.

The USSR regained the lead in the medal table ahead of the GDR, both again winning the same number of titles with 11.


15 th European Athletics Championships
Split , Yugoslavia - Gradski Stadion, 27 August – 1 September 1990

By the time of the 15 th European Athletics Championships in 1990, political changes in Eastern Europe had also had their impact on the athletics world. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and because the reunification of Germany was scheduled for 3 October 1990, it was already clear that it would be the last appearance of a GDR team at a European Athletics Championships. But who could have foreseen all the other dramatic changes to the political map of Europe? It turned out to be also the last time that a Soviet team took part in the European Athletics Championships. Last but not least, Yugoslavia, host of these Championships, stood on the edge of a brutal civil war.

The French 4x100m relay team (Max Morinière, Daniel Sangouma, Jean-Charles Trouabal, Bruno Marie-Rose) created a sensation in breaking the six-year-old world record set by the US team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles with 37.79. Great Britain lowered the European 4x400m record to 2:58.22. Salvatore Antibo (ITA) became the fourth athlete to win the 5000m and 10,000m double and world record holder Sergey Bubka fell to fifth place while arch rival Rodion Gataulin won the pole vault. Britons Colin Jackson (110m hurdles) and Steve Backley (javelin) won the first of four European gold medals and Dragutin Topic (YUG) delighted the home crowd by winning the high jump. A young athlete, Fermin Cacho (ESP), finished 11 th in the 1500m final and two years later he would become Olympic champion in Barcelona.

With 12 gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze medals, the GDR team dominated the Championships for the last time. Great Britain had their most successful ever Championships, winning nine gold, five silver and three bronze. The USSR (6/9/7) followed and, thanks to its strength in the distance events and walks, Italy was fourth (5/2/5).


16 th European Athletics Championships
Helsinki , Finland - Olympic Stadium, 7-14 August 1994

The new political map of Europe led to a new picture. The GDR had disappeared, but new states emerged in the wake of the political changes in the former Eastern block. A record number of 44 EAA Member Federations took part in the Championships. Russia (10 gold/8 silver/7 bronze) was the most successful team in the medal standings, winning seven more medals than the entire USSR team four years before. Great Britain placed second in the medal table (6/5/2) ahead of the re-united Germany (5/4/5), who won just 14 medals in comparison to the 34 won by the GDR in 1990. Ukraine won its first ever title, Latvia its first medal since 1934 and Lithuania its first ever medal. Athletes from a total of 25 countries stood on the podium.

Sari Essayah won Finland's only gold, taking the 10km walk, and javelin thrower Seppo Rähti electrified the home crowd with his silver medal. World record holder Jan Zelezny was ‘only’ third and the event was won by Steve Backley (GBR). Linford Christie equalled Valeri Borzov’s (URS) career record by winning his third consecutive 100m title. Heike Drechsler (GER) also won her third consecutive gold in the long jump with 7.14m. Sonia O'Sullivan won the first ever Irish gold medal in a running event in the 3000m. Olympic and World champion Marie-José Perec (FRA) completed her medal collection with her first European title in the 400m and Irina Privalova won the 100m-200m double. Rodion Gataulin (RUS) dominated the best ever championships pole vault field with 6.00m, with Trandenkov (RUS) second (5.90m) and Galfione (FRA) third (5.85m). Spain’s marathon men Martin Fiz, Diego Garcia and Alberto Juzdado scored a clean sweep. The Belarusian shot putters did the same.


17 th European Athletics Championships
Budapest , Hungary - Nep Stadium, 18-23 August 1998

44 EAA Member Federations with more than 1200 athletes took part in the 1998 European Athletics Championships. 26 nations had a share in the medal table which was headed by Great Britain (9 gold/4 silver/3 bronze) followed by Germany (8/7/8) and Russia (6/9/7).

40,000 enthusiastic spectators saw Christine Arron (FRA) win the 100m, setting a new European record of 10.73 in the process. Irina Privalova (RUS), defending champion and previous record holder had to be content with second place. Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) dominated both the 5000m and the 10000m. With jumps of 7.16m in the second and third round, Heike Drechsler (GER) won the long jump for the fourth consecutive time.

On their National Day the Hungarians celebrated a one-two in the hammer throw. Tibor Gecsek threw a personal best of 82.87m in the fifth round to beat Olympic champion Balazs Kiss. Three British athletes broke championship records to win gold: Darren Campbell in the 100m (10.04); Jonathan Edwards in the triple jump (17.99m); Steve Backley (GBR) in the javelin in both the qualifying round (87.45m) and in the final (89.72m). Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski (POL) added the European 50km race walk title to his career list. Against a strong field of decathletes, where the fifth placed athlete achieved more than 8500 points, Erki Nool (EST) scored 8667 points for victory and delighted his famous fan club which followed him to stadiums all over the world.


18 th European Athletics Championships
Munich , Germany – Olympia Stadion, 6-11 August 2002

In 2002 athletics returned to Munich’s Olympiapark 30 years after the Olympic Games for the 18 th edition of the European Athletics Championships and a record 48 EAA Member Federations took part.

Paula Radcliffe (GBR) led the 10,000m from the start and, in torrential ran, set a fantastic new European record of 30:01.09. Five other women’s championship records were set: by Svetlana Feofanova (RUS) in the pole vault (4.60m), Olga Kuzenkova (RUS) in the hammer (72.94m), Mirela Manjani (GRE) in the javelin (67.47m), Olimpiada Ivanova (RUS) in the 20km Walk (1:26:42) and Maria Guida (ITA) in the marathon (2:26:05).

Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski (POL) produced a world best in the 50km walk (3:36:39) and four more championship records came from Dwain Chambers (GBR) in the 100m (9.96); Kostantinos Kenteris (GRE), who added the European 200m title (19.85) to his Olympic success; Robert Fazekas (HUN) in the discus (68.83m) and Francisco Fernandez (ESP) in the 20km Walk (1:18:37). Steve Backley won the javelin (88.54m) and became the first British athlete in history to achieve four consecutive European gold medals. One day later Colin Jackson matched this feat when he won his fourth 110m hurdles title. row. There was an historic dead heat in the men’s 1500m when France’s Mehdi Baala and Spain Reyes Estevez shared the gold.

The Russian team headed the medal table (7 gold/9 silver/8 bronze) followed by Great Britain (7/1/6) and, thanks to their successful distance runners and walkers, Spain was third (6/3/6). More nations than ever (29) won medals.

Sweden showed itself to be a force in European athletics with five medals. 19-year-old Caroline Klüft (SWE) excited the appreciative crowd by setting a new world junior record in the heptathlon, beating two-time European Champion Sabine Braun (GER). Christian Olsson won the triple jump and Kajsa Bergqvist took high jump gold.


19 th European Athletics Championships
Göteborg , Sweden - Ullevi Stadium, 7-13 August 2006

When Europe’s best athletes meet in Göteborg in August 2006 to battle for the prestigious title of European champion, it will be, after Stockholm, the second time that Sweden has hosted the Championships.


20 th European Athletics Championships
Barcelona , Spain – Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium, July/August 2010 (TBC)

In April 2006, the EAA Council awarded the right to host the 20 th European Athletics Championships to Barcelona. Although Spain has hosted every other major athletics championships, this will be the first time that the country has staged the European Athletics Championships.