The focus of attention at the European Athletics Championships, due to get underway here tomorrow, has fallen upon an athlete who is due to run for no country - Yuliya Stepanova, the doping cheat turned whistleblower on Russian doping activities, who is on the list for the 800 metres under a neutral flag.
Stepanova is on the start list in heat two of the 800m on the first day of action in the Olympic Stadium which held the 1928 Games.
Unlike every other runner in her heat, she has no season’s best time to her name - she achieved her qualifying mark last year - as she has been training on her own at a secret location in the United States, where she and her husband and fellow whistleblower Vitaly have made their new home.
Like every other runner at these Championships, Stepanova will compete with the words “I Run Clean” on her bib.
Going in heat eight will be Britain’s Jenny Meadows, denied a place in the 2011 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships final by Stepanova, who ran under her maiden name of Rusanova, while France’s Renelle Lamote, who heads the European rankings with 1min 58.01sec, runs in heat one.
The poster athlete for these Championships, however, is home sprinter Dafne Schippers, the world 200m champion and 100m silver medallist.
Schippers is doing the 100m and 4x100m relay here - in the individual event her best this season is 10.83sec, and no other European has broken 11 seconds in 2016.
In his comments at today’s official Opening Ceremony for Amsterdam 2016 in Museum Square - attended by the Dutch king, Willem-Alexander - the European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen commented: “I think I can say I am really looking forward to the 100m women’s final on Friday, it is going to be a highlight not only for me but all of you.”
Home hopes of another potential challenger, world indoor 1500m champion Sifan Hassan, have been dimmed by a calf injury which has prevented her running in recent months, although she is down to start.
Schippers will not need to trouble herself with 100m qualifying on Thursday (July 7).
For the first time, partly as a nod to the demands of an Olympic year, the organisers have given the top 12 male and female athletes in all events from 100 to 400m, including hurdles, direct qualification into the semi-finals.
Adam Gemili of Britain, who won the European 200m title two years ago in Zurich, is entered for the 100m here, but the Londoner, who has a best of 10.19 this season, will be hard pushed to resist the challenge of France’s Jimmy Vicaut, who equalled the European record of 9.86 last month.
Britain’s Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth long jump champion Greg Rutherford is here to defend his title.
He has had an ideal preparation for Olympic year, and has a best this season of 8.31 metres - 20 centimetres clear of the nearest challenger in the European 2016 lists, Serhiy Nykyforov of the Ukraine, who has jumped 8.11m.
Another Olympic champion, Renaud Lavillenie, is also preparing to defend his title in the celebrated arena.
Lavillenie has competed in seven European Athletics Championships - indoors and out - and he has won gold every time, a unique record he is keen to continue.
“I don’t care about the height; I just want the gold medal,” said Lavillenie, who set a world 2016 lead of 5.95m at the French Championships in Angers on June 26.
“Even if I won with 5.80m, I would be happy."
The men’s javelin looks like one of the most competitive events of the Championships, with Germany’s Thomas Rohler establishing himself as favourite last Wednesday (June 29) as he broke 90m for the first time of his career, throwing 91.28m, the 11th best of all time, in the Finnish javelin heartland of Turku.
The Finns will surely challenge strongly however through Tero Pitkamaki, the 33-year-old 2007 world champion who has thrown 85.35m this year, Antii Ruuskanen, with 86.90m, as will the Czech contingent which includes Jakub Vadlejch, 86.76m, and 2013 world champion Vitezslav Vesely.
He has thrown 83.81m this season.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, Sweden’s 35-year-old Susanna Kallur of Sweden is back in championship action for the first time in six injury-filled years.
Kallur, who still holds the world indoor 60m hurdles record of 7.68 from 2008, returned to top flight action at last month’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm, where she finished fifth in 13.00.
“It feels like I have been running a very long marathon for the past few years and this was just like the last 100th of a second and the absolute best part,” she said.
The Championships will incorporate an International Para-Athletics Challenge involving athletes such as Dutch sprinter Marlou van Rhijn, German long jumper Markus Rehm, British discus thrower Daniel Greaves and Switzerland’s 1500m wheelchair competitor Manuela Schar.