As part of his coverage of various events for @runblogrun, Stuart Weir always provides an introduction. The Lieven stadium will host the sixth of seven events in the World Indoor Tour.
The World Athletics indoor tour has gone from Boston to Karlsruhe to Dusseldorf to Torun to Glasgow and now to LiÃ©vin before finishing in Madrid. (Please note that I managed to call at the World Athletics indoor tour not the IAAF…). LiÃ©vin is a small town in Northern France, with a population of 30,000. It is about an hour north of France. I travelled from London by Eurostar (through the channel tunnel) to Lille where I picked up the local train to Lens. Lievin seems to be part of Lens but at the same time independent. Lens has a League 1 soccer team and was one of the host cities for the 1998 soccer world cup.
LiÃ©vin, an old mining town, “is of modest size but has several schools, colleges, a university, a swimming pool, a city library, a cultural and social center (CCS), a hospital, a covered stadium, several gardens and parks, two movie theaters, two cemeteries, a Catholic church, a shopping center, a National Police station, a fire station, a complete intercommunity transportation system” (Wikipedia). So now you know. Archaeological excavations have found graves going back to 500AD.
In 1974 there was a terrible accident in the last remaining coal mine with 42 people dying. That resulted in the last mine being closed, a very difficult situation for a time depending on the coal industry. Coal – and the 90 miners who lost their lives over the years – has not been forgotten. From my hotel window I can see in the town centre two head frames (winding towers) on display has a reminder of the town’s past.
The is the 26th year that the meet (Hauts de France) has taken place. Remarkably it has seen seven world record set over the years:
1993 200m Merlene Ottey 21.87
1993 Pole Vault Serge Bubka 6.14
1994 Triple jump Inna Lasovskaya 14.90
1995 200m Linford Christie 20.25
1996 200m Frankie Fredericks 19.92
2002 Svetlana Feofanova 4.74
2005 Yelena Isinbayeva 4.89
With Mondo in the house, and a venue with have proven record of pole vault records, there is a great sense of anticipation. And as Sandi Morris pointed out at the press conference, it is exciting for the athletes to have the unusual experience of male and female pole vault competitions at the same and meet.
A special edition of the local magazine, Sport 62, has been published to mark the event. In the unlikely event that anyone is interested, France is divided into departments and each department has a number (as listed alphabetically). LiÃ©vin is in Pas de Calais department which comes 62nd on the alphabetical list. Hence the magazine Sport 62. In that wonderful French way, the magazine starts with a greeting and message from the president of the region, the president of the department and the president of the city, all of whom are quick to remind you that France will host the 2024 Olympics, in case you’d forgotten.
To be fair for a one horse town, the arena is impressive. It seats 6, 000 for athletics and 12,000 for concerts. The arena is part of an elite sporting complex which includes 100 bedrooms and a restaurant which can accommodate 300 people. It is linked with the local university. I confess that I had never heard of LiÃ©vin before this year. It seems to be one of those towns like Bydgoszcz or Cheboksaray which track and field has put on the map.
If this article makes you regret missing the opportunity to see the town and its facilities, all is not lost as the French indoor track and field championships take place over the weekend commencing 29 February.