If the organisers of next year’s European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam have their wish, Dafne Schippers will be one of the names of 2016.
The Dutch heptathlete-turned-sprinter raised her profile dramatically in the summer by taking 200 metres gold medal and 100m silver at the International Association of Athletics Federatios World Championships in Beijing. And barring accident or injury, she is set fair to dominate the track at the Olympic Stadium in the Dutch capital from July 6 until 10.
But the 23-year-old from Utrecht is already certain to be a name of 2016 anyway given the recent hometown public vote which selected her from 10 contenders to give her name to the bridge which is being built next year over the Amsterdam-Rhine canal.
The Dafne Schippers Bridge is due to be completed by the end of 2016. As such it will be only the latest in the Amsterdam Championships poster girl’s claims to fame. Schippers has already had a baby seal named after her, and of course a street, which is the standard sporting currency in terms of honouring-by-name.
Two years ago the then Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was present at the opening of Sir Alex Ferguson Way, close to Old Trafford and adjacent to the road named after the other United manager to have won the European Cup, Sir Matt Busby.
Presumably Sir Alex Ferguson Way is one-way and pretty direct. If not, it should be.
Meanwhile Jose Mourinho, who might yet end up a little closer to Old Trafford himself before too long, has also been honoured with a street being named after him in his native Setubal - although this is not yet official. The naming, that is.
As you might expect, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are similarly honoured. (Again, one assumes Jack Nicklaus Drive is straight and very, very long).
And in the Argentinian town of El Chanar you will find streets named in homage to the side which reached last year’s World Cup final in Brazil – yes, just proceed down Lionel Messi street (glorious, unpredictable, with astonishing twists and turns?) and turn left into Javier Mascherano (mind how you go…)
For those who find streets a little, how shall we say, pedestrian, there is a teeming world of possibilities when it comes to honouring the famous, although the most imaginative examples, curiously, do not involve those from the sporting domain.
To give you a flavour: Justin Timberlake has a melon named after him. Joe Strummer a snail. Beyonce – a horse fly with a golden-haired rear end. Angelina Jolie – that will be a trapdoor spider. David Hasselhoff? He has a hairy-chested crab named after him. Bob Marley? For some reason, a bloodsucking fish parasite.
Meanwhile, comic John Cleese has experience the highs and the lows of the naming game. After a trip to New Zealand in 2005, Cleese commented: “If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.” The good citizens of Palmerton North retaliated by naming their landfill site after him.
Cleese had better luck that same year with scientists who recognised his efforts to assist the conservation of lemurs by naming a woolly lemur species after him.
If wildlife – give or take the odd seal – seems generally to be beyond the sporting ambit in terms of the name game, bridges definitely fall within it.
Schippers’s honour is the latest in an august series.
In 2009, Welsh world champion boxer Joe Calzhage, and his boxing family from Gwent, including his father and trainer Enzo, were honoured by having a £3 million ($4.5 million/€4 million) Newbridge footbridge named “Pont Calzaghe Bridge”.
In Pittsburgh, the bridge which spans the Allegheny River carries the name of the man who starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, Roberto Clemente. Another former US sporting figure, Arizona Cardinals’ Pat Tillman, who enlisted in the Army and was killed in Afghanistan, is jointly honoured with Mike O’Callaghan on the name of the bridge which spans the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.
And in May this year, the bridge linking Highway 401 in Ontario with Interstate 75 and 94 in Michigan was officially named the Gordie Howe International Bridge in honour of the legendary Canadian ice hockey player.
A year earlier, a new bridge over the River Yarra in the Docklands of Melbourne was named after Jim Stynes, the Irishman who proved to be one of the greatest AFL players of all-time for the Melbourne club, and who did huge amounts of charity work before his death from cancer in 2012 at the age of 45.