5 August 16:48 (BST)

Berlin 2018 will be the ‘strongest ever seen’, says HANSEN

BERLIN - The Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships will be the "strongest ever seen", according to European Athletics president Svein Arne HANSEN.

The 24th European Athletics Championships, which get under way on Monday 6 August, will feature seven reigning Olympic champions, 15 world champions and 34 gold medallists from the last continental championships in Amsterdam two years ago.

"I think it's the strongest championships we have ever seen," HANSEN said. "Over the last year every athlete I talked to has been focusing on Berlin. That is the focus we want to have. I don't think we are missing anyone of top quality other than through injury.

"I am sure the sport-loving people in Germany will see that and think, 'Let's be a part of this. Let's go to the stadium and enjoy it.'  It's a really, really special place to be."

Christian GAEBLER, head of the Berlin Senate Chancellery, said Berlin wanted "to mirror the success" of the IAAF World Championships it hosted in 2009.

"We had the big Usain BOLT (JAM) show back then and we want now to have the same shows this year," he said. "Great performances are going to be seen in the Olympic Stadium."

A 'European Mile' area has been installed in Breitscheidplatz Square in the centre of the city to act as a finish line for the marathon and walking events, and stage the men's shot put qualifications and nightly victory ceremonies.

"Of course the Breitscheidplatz is the venue where the terrorist attack happened in 2016, but we want to send a signal and show that we will not bow down to those who want to destroy our society," he said.

"So far we have sold 270,000 tickets. This is a pre-sale that no other European Athletics Championships has accomplished before, but we have a very big stadium that needs to be filled so we have to keep up the good work."

The athletics events begin on Monday at 15:05 BST and continue on Tuesday morning when the first medals will be decided in the men's and women's 50km race walks.

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