Sebastian Coe, the London Olympic chief, believes holding the European championships every two years will help make athletes from the continent more competitive at global events, even though the next edition will be held just a month before the 2012 Olympic Games. The 2012 European championships in Helsinki will be staged from June 27 to July 1. The London Olympics begin on July 27.
"We have to get a tradition of running back again, but I do think that tradition is better served by having a European championships in the public domain twice every four years [rather] than once every four years," Coe, chairman of London's organising committee, told Reuters yesterday. "I think every two years is a very good thing. I've always believed actually that if we were restructuring this again we would have had the continental championship every two years and the world championships only once every four years. "So I think this is about as good as it will get," added the double Olympic 1,500 metres champion. The European championships have largely been staged every four years since their debut in 1934 but a change in schedule was proposed in 2007, when 47 of the 50 European Athletics member federations accepted a biennial event.
Coe also refuted claims the championships could be an unneccesary distraction ahead of the Olympics. "Athletes will make a judgment about what suits their plans. I don't think we should get too excited about it," he said. "It just happens that this year the Olympic Games happen to be in Europe. It makes life a little more complicated but it is still important that we have important events every two years. "I think athletes will have to decide for themselves [whether to compete in both." Meanwhile, in last night's final day of action at this year's event in Barcelona, a dream debut at the European championships was capped for Christophe Lemaitre last night as he won his third gold medal of the competition. The 20-year-old sprinter, who had already triumphed for France in the 100 metres and the 200m individual events, claimed his hat-trick by being part of the French team that claimed the 4x100m. Lemaitre ran the second leg for his country and put in a typically strong performance as he kept his team in contention. But despite his efforts the French were trailing going into the final leg as Italy led the way going into the home straight. But Martial Mbandjock, running the final leg for France, ran superbly to take the lead in the final strides and cross the line first in a time of 38.11 seconds. It was not all good news for France though on the final day of competition in Barcelona as their women's 4x100m relay team were beaten in their final by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians came home in a time of 42.29secs, which was the fastest time set in 2010. Viktor Rothlin won the men's marathon to give Switzerland their first medal of the Championships. The 35-year-old runner made up for European silver four years ago with a winning run of 2hrs 15mins 31secs. "This was my 19th marathon and it felt like the first," Rothlin said. "My career might as well have been over after today, but the only thing I can say now is that I'm back! It feels great." * Agencies