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  • Seats Empty for Athletics in Baku -- On the Scene


    06/23/15

    (ATR) Baku's National Stadium has a seating capacity of 68,000, but looked deserted during two days of athletics competition.

    A sparse crowd looks on during the women's 4x400 meter relay. (Getty Images)
    Household names were lacking at the European Athletics Team Championship, which involved athletes from third league countries competing.

    The two-day event concluded on June 22, with Slovakia overtaking Austria for the title in dramatic fashion when Austrian Paralympics gold medalist Gunter Matzinger--who has a prosthetic on his right arm--dropped the baton overtaking another runner in the final 4 x 400 meters relay event.

    As a result of the blunder, Slovakia overtook Austrian by half of a point to claim the team victory.

    Despite viewers around the world watching the two-day event taking place in what looked like an empty stadium, organizers said they were pleased with the attendance figures--22,000 on day one and 19,000 for the final day of competition.

    The squad from Azerbaijan competed and fared well in certain events, so the lackluster attendance certainly couldn’t be attributed to lack of local competitors to cheer on.

    Organizers claimed that with a lengthy five-hour program on both days and sweltering temperatures and bright sun in Baku, fans most likely could only bare sitting in the heat for portions of the event.

    Perhaps overshadowing the Baku 2015 athletics team event will be a fan-friendly "street athletics" competition organized independently of the Games,  scheduled to take place in the Azerbaijani capital’s Fountain Square, June 24-25.

    The men’s and women’s pole vault will take place on June 24 between 5:30pm and 8:30pm, while the men’s high jump will be staged the following day at the same time.

    Top names expected to compete include a duo of world champions--German pole vaulter Rafael Holzdeppe and Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko.

    Reported in Baku by Brian Pinelli

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