Alytus has been hosting international race walking competitions for more than 40 years and so it is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to write this welcome message for this year’s European Race Walking Cup, for which the city has taken on the responsibility of being the host.
This competition was inaugurated in 1996 and Lithuania becomes the 10th different nation in 13 editions to host it. This fact alone indicates the continental-wide popularity of this discipline but it’s also worth noting that no less than 19 of European Athletics’ Member Federations have made the podium at one time or another during the last 23 years so walking talent and ability is not just concentrated in just a few countries.
It is the first time that Lithuania has staged this competition, but I am confident that it will be a superbly organised event as there is no shortage of experience and expertise among the Local Organising Committee.
The fact that for many years prior to 2019 the annual International Race Walking Festival here has been a European Athletics race Walking Permit meeting means that, firstly, there could be barely anywhere more appropriate for the continental showpiece of this discipline than this particular city and, second, the organisation has historically had the seal of organisational quality assurance bestowed upon it by European Athletics.
With such a heritage, I am sure that the Alytus 2019 European Race Walking Cup will be among the highlights of European Athletics’ competitions this year, as well as providing a valuable stepping stone for the continent’s walkers as they stride towards the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019.
As it is the biggest competition on the continental calendar for walkers this year, I expect that many of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships medallists will be competing and a good number of Europe’s leading race walkers will have been to Alytus in the past so will be familiar with the course and the city; not least Germany’s Christopher Linke, who won the men’s 20km Cup title in the Czech town of Poděbrady two years ago and then came to Alytus and won here last year.
Nevertheless, whether someone is familiar with Alytus or coming here for the first time, I am convinced everyone is eagerly looking forward to this event.
On behalf of European Athletics, I am grateful to the Athletic Federation of Lithuania and the city of Alytus for taking on the task of organising the European Race Walking Cup and to all the officials and volunteers for all their hard work and commitment in staging this event.
Svein Arne Hansen
European Athletics President