The Heritage Department is headed up by Chris Turner at World Athletics. Chris was the second person that I met at the then IAAF, and now, in his perfect role, Chris champions the protection of the historical sport. Mike Rowbottom wrote this fantastic piece for World Athletics.
The World Championships changed the face of our sport. I recall a story from the late James Dunaway. Dunaway was one of a handful of Americans who went to the Moscow 1980 Olympics as a journalist due to the Olympic boycott. Dunaway told me about having to return to his hotel room, only to have the KGB in his room, telling him, “We will be done in a few minutes.” Ah, Moscow in 1980.
During the Moscow Olympics, Mr. Dunaway enjoyed a beverage of an adult nature with one Primo Nebiolo, and it was from Nebiolo that Dunaway heard about the plans for the 1983 World Champs. Twenty years late, when James told me the story, he told me that he thought the Italian soon to be President of the IAAF might have been a little inebriated. Surely, the IAAF could not afford to have its own World Champs.
But, they did, and Mike Rowbottom, one of our finest sports writers, gives us the story! Thanks, Mike!
When the 2023 World Athletics Championships gets underway in Budapest on 19 August, the sport will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first edition in Helsinki in 1983.
But without the work of a visionary Dutchman, the savvy of an English marketing man, and the drive of a dynamic Italian, in a time when a series of Olympic boycotts posed an existential threat, the World Athletics Championships may never have evolved to become the monument it is today.
It is hard to imagine the sporting calendar without the World Athletics Championships and much of the credit for initiating it goes to Adriaan Paulen, the Dutchman who was President of what was then the International Amateur Athletic Federation between 1976 and 1981.
“The vision of taking the sport out of a pure amateur status was his,” says Patrick Nally, a visionary sports marketer himself who worked closely with Paulen during his presidency.
After taking over from Britain’s 1928 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Lord Burghley, who had held the presidency for 30 years, Paulen set about widening his sport’s competitive horizons and commercial possibilities.
Paulen, who was born in 1902, was a 400m and 800m runner who competed in three Olympic Games between 1920 and 1928. He also competed eight times in the Monte Carlo Rally and played football at the international level. After the Second World War, he received the US Medal of Freedom and the Netherlands’ highest military honor for his deeds working for the resistance against the Nazi occupation.
As Nally recalls, Paulen – who died in 1985 – drew upon his wide sports experience to frame a new future for track and field.
“Seeing the development work in football, he wanted the same for athletics,” he explains. “He pioneered the World Cup of 1977 and the World Championships of 1983.”