Weightlifting’s 2018 senior European Championships will be hosted by the Albanian capital city, Tirana.
The European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) was forced to find a new host when Turkey was forbidden to organise international championships because of a one-year ban imposed recently by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
That meant Antalya could no longer stage the biggest event on the European calendar in the last week of March.
Georgia and Romania offered to step in but Halmstad in Sweden became the EWF’s favoured option a fortnight ago.
When that fell through, the EWF ‘s executive board voted to accept an offer from the Albanians.
“It is a good offer by the Albanian Weightlifting Federation,” said Antonio Urso, the EWF president, who is expected to visit Tirana on November 15, with general secretary Hasan Akkus, to finalise arrangements.
“The short time is the challenge but we are really optimistic about the success of the championships.”
Only two weeks ago the Albanians hosted the European Junior and Under-23 Championships in Durres, a coastal resort about 25 miles from Tirana.
The Albanians are also said to be keen to host the senior IWF World Championships within the next few years.
The President of the Albanian Federation, Elez Gjoza, was elected on to the EWF executive board as an ex-officio member at the EWF Congress before competition began in Durres.
Urso and Akkus visited Halmstad last week.
The Swedes were keen but, faced with a huge challenge to organise costly television coverage, and with only five months to make all the arrangements, they stood aside – for now.
“The meeting was a good experience for us, and the decision will be yes looking forward, but not 2018,” said Kjell-Ake Johansson, President of the Swedish Weightlifting Federation.
“We have a new, young and enthusiastic board and I hope this will become a reality in a few years.”
The Championships in Tirana will be televised live, said Urso, who had said at the Congress that broadcasters were worried about the absence of so many nations.
Besides Turkey, eight other nations have been banned for a year by the IWF for having three or more positives in the retesting of samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
Seven of the nine are European – Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Turkey – and the last international event in which they were allowed to compete, before the bans started, was the Junior and Under-23 Championships in Durres.
Albania stands to benefit from the absence of so many nations who usually take podium places.
Briken Calja in the 69kg, Daniel Godelli in the 77kg, and Krenar Shoraj in the 85kg will be contenders for men’s medals, and in the women’s events there will be high hopes for Evagjelia Veli at 53kg and Romela Begaj at 69kg.
If results of lifters from the seven suspended nations are removed from the 2017 senior European Championships in Split, Croatia, there would be women’s gold medallists from Britain and Hungary, Romania would top the medals table, and Sweden would have a medallist in Patricia Strenius, who finished sixth in the 69kg.
One nation which will not be able to fully realise its potential for winning medals is Britain, which will send only a small team to Albania because of a clash with the Commonwealth Games.
The Games in Gold Coast begin on April 4, three days after the European Championships are due to finish.
Australia has been host nation for the Commonwealth Games four times since 1938, but never before has the event been staged in April .
“Sadly, it’s far from ideal that two major competitions clash like this” said Ashley Metcalfe, chief executive of British Weightlifting.
“The European Championships (without the banned nations) will give a number of nations a medal-winning opportunity they won’t have had in the past and may not have in the future.
“The feedback from our lifters is that they see the Commonwealth Games as the priority.”
Only one athlete per home nation – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - can compete in any one category, so those who do not qualify will be able to compete for Britain in Tirana.
Another nation which can choose Europe or Gold Coast is Cyprus, which will have a medal contender in Dimitris Minasidis, in the men’s 62kg.