Top athletics event under way

Top athletics event under way

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Top athletics event under way

Athletes from the participant teams carry their country’s flags during the opening ceremony of the World Indoor Championships. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The World Indoor Athletics Championships got underway March 9 with an opening ceremony at the Ataköy Athletics Hall.

The three-day event is listed as the most important athletics event of the year by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and this year’s has broken the participation record for similar events, with 683 athletes from 172 countries.

“For the next three days we will follow the championships here, and I believe we will send beautiful messages of peace and friendship to the world from the Ataköy Athletics Hall,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the ceremony. “Our friends, who have come here from near and far, will feel like the host of this event, not like guests, because Istanbul is a town that has hosted many civilizations throughout the history. And I believe Turkey will draw them back again with its hospitality and unique beauty.”

Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç expressed his pride at Istanbul’s hosting of the championships. “We are proud to host this event, in which almost every single one of the world’s flags, languages, religions, and colors are coming together in Istanbul to participate in athletics, the mother of all sports,” Kılıç said.

On the opening day of the event, Turkey’s İlham Tanui Özbilen won his heat and advanced to the men’s 1500m finals. Another home favorite, Merve Aydın, broke the national record in the 800m with 2.01.19, but failed to advance to the finals by just 0.02 seconds. A total of 11 finals will be held on Saturday and 12 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, world indoor pentathlon champion Jessica Ennis was leading after three events of the pentathlon, as an anticipated head-to-head battle with Tatyana Chernova failed to materialize in the opening session. However, Ennis’ total of 3,064 points was only 10 ahead of Lithuanian Austra Skujyte.