Svein Arne Hansen, who appears a strong prospect to be voted in as the new European Athletics President this weekend in succession to 71-year-old Hansjorg Wirz, has said talks to clarify the position of his sport with the European Games would be a priority for him if he is successful in his bid.
On Sunday, insidethegames reported that Wirz, who has served for 16 years in his position, could not confirm that athletics would play a part in future European Games after this summer’s inaugural running in Baku, where the European Team Championships Third League, featuring Azerbaijani athletes, will take place.
"I think it is not fair for athletics to be showing the Third League of the European Team Championships at the European Games when other sports are there at the top level," said Hansen, now 68, who stands against Jean Gracia of France and Antii Pihlakoski of Finland for the Presidency at the European Athletics Congress in Bled, Slovenia, on Saturday (April 11).
"I don’t think this is the proper value for athletics.
"If it is going to be included it should be of a stronger standard.
"If I am elected as European Athletics President, one of the first things I would like to do would be to have a meeting with the European Olympic Committees President, Pat Hickey, about this.
"I think we have to see what kind of guarantees we can get between European Athletics and the European Games."
Leading Change, Hansen’s manifesto for the Presidential contest launched in January, spoke of "special measures to promote athletics in the years when no Olympic Games or World Championships are staged in Europe".
Since then there has been the announcement, in March, that the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin will now be effectively incorporated in the European Sports Championship, linking up with European Championships for four other sports - swimming, rowing, cycling and triathlon - which will be held contemporaneously in Glasgow.
Asked if he felt European Athletics was now set permanently within the European Sport Championships, Hansen - who was meeting director for the Oslo Bislett Games from 1985 to 2009 and a vice-president of European Athletics from 2007 to 2011, responded: "I haven’t the faintest idea.
"There is no transparency on this.
"The Federations have not been informed of this.
"I found some information in the minutes of the last European Athletics Council meeting.
"I hope we will have some more information about this at the Congress."
Hansen added: "I spoke about ‘teamwork’ in my manifesto.
"But I cannot see there is any teamwork at all in this.
"I knew nothing about it.
"Nobody told us about it.
"All I heard about it was a rumour.
"You could certainly say it came as a surprise to a lot of people.
"I am not worried about the European Sports Championship.
"I don’t think it will have a big impact.
"We have our Championships in this year as usual.
"But the European Championships always stands on its own, even if it’s part of something else.
"And the European Championships in Berlin will be a big success.
"As for the future – we will see.
"If we get some more information then we can make up our mind."