Chance for Gateshead to get back on right track

BRENDAN Foster admits the North East has to “prove” it has the appetite to host world- class athletics again.

BRENDAN Foster admits the North East has to “prove” it has the appetite to host world- class athletics again.

Gateshead has been a destination on the European and global athletics calendar for the best part of four decades.

However, it has been two years since it hosted a championships of the calibre of the European Team competition which visits the region this month. With its high-profile across the Continent, roll call of top stars and the promise of TV coverage across both days, the event affords a unique opportunity for the North East to show that it has lost none of its desire to see the sport at first hand.

That was perhaps called into question when the region last hosted a Diamond League meeting in 2010, with critics citing low crowds and a lack of enthusiasm as one of the reasons why the event was shifted to Birmingham in 2011.

Foster admits there were improvements to make – but feels this summer will illustrate just why there are reasons to be optimistic.

“I think we did have a point to prove,” he told The Journal.

“The point has been proved in that the stadium at Gateshead has been renovated, it looks good and it’ll be packed.

“The enthusiasm will come across on the air and on television and this will be screened across Europe.

“To demonstrate Gateshead can host major athletics is important for Gateshead, it’s important everyone recognises Gateshead can do that. Then the question will be: ‘what comes next?’”

Foster is delighted Britain will be represented by some of their biggest names, Mo Farah (pictured right), Greg Rutherford and Christine Ohuruogu all confirming their desire to compete.

He added: “It’s important for the sport it spreads across the whole country.

“It is important for the North East the stadium – which has been there for 40 years now – has major events.

“The combination of the two makes it a really exciting event. The British team which did so well in the Olympics, coming to the North East in all its glory, is extremely important.”

There are around 1,000 tickets left for either day, with prices from £12 and £6 for children. For more information, go to www.gateshead2013.com.

Foster said: “It’s great the public have responded.

“Hopefully, it will be a sell-out by the time the weekend comes about.

“We’ll see some fantastic athletics because we have some great athletes taking part.”

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