Christian Schenk is ready to fight for a bright future of the ISTAF. The
decathlon Olympic champion from Seoul 1988 was appointed meeting director of
this year’s IAAF Golden League final, which will take place on 6th
September in Berlin.
Following the financial collapse of the ISTAF GmbH, which was in charge for
Germany’s most prestigious athletics meeting for several years, a new
company has been set up immediately. News of the financial difficulties of the
ISTAF GmbH were originally made public by a falsed fax, which substantially
harmed Berlin’s chances in the race for the IAAF World Championships in
2005. Police in Berlin is still investigating the matter. There are supposed to
be clues which should lead to the person who sent the fax. Despite all the
trouble and rumours this year’s ISTAF is safe.
„I don’t look back to what happened in the past – I am
working on the future“, Christian Schenk says. While the former ISTAF
GmbH belonged to three local clubs which did not get on with each other very
well, the new company looks much more professional. The president of the Berlin
Association of Industry and Commerce, Werner Gegenbauer, holds a major part of
the Leichtathletik-Veranstaltungs-GmbH (LVG), which is the new owner of the
ISTAF. The marketing company of the Deutscher Leichtathletik-Verband (DLV) is,
among others, also involved.
If he had ever thought of turning down the offer for the job because of the
bad news the ISTAF GmbH produced in the past, Christian Schenk was asked.
„This is no question for a former decathlete!“, he said and added:
„I will do my very best for the ISTAF.“ The 37-year-old Schenk, who
moved from Rostock to Berlin some time ago, is the owner of a sports marketing
and promotion agency. Two things make him optimistic concerning the ISTAF,
although there are just three months left for preparations: „When I was
in Nairobi for the presentation of the Berlin bid I realised for the first
time, that it is possible for Berlin politicians, the local economy and
athletics‘ officials to pull together.“ The other decisive question
for Schenk was, whether the organisers in the background would continue working
with the LVG. „As this is the case, I can’t see any problems
concerning the limited time left until 6th September.“
As Christian Schenk has never been a meeting director for an event as
prestigious as the ISTAF before, he will receive help by a prominent man in the
sport: Svein Arne Hansen. The meeting director of the IAAF Golden League in
Oslo has agreed to support the ISTAF. „Svein Arne Hansen is like a
godfather for us. The meeting in Oslo is in a similar situation as we are. They
also have not the biggest budget and still produce a very good meeting“,
Christian Schenk said. So after the meeting in Oslo on 28th June Svein Arne
Hansen will care about the ISTAF. Especially concerning the contracts for the
athletes Hansen could be a great help for the ISTAF. The new ISTAF company has
also agreed to pay all the athletes who were still waiting for their money from
The new ISTAF company will face yet another task this year. Due to the
rebuilding of the Olympic Stadium, which will be finished by the end of 2004,
this year’s meeting will be moved to the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark.
This will be an exception for this year only, as in the Olympic Stadium the
whole infield is lowered by about two and a half metres during the summer break
of the German football season. Additionally the spectators‘ seats of home
straight are broken up for rebuilding. So instead of having the IAAF Golden
League final on a building site organisers chose to change to the Jahn-Stadium.
It is the same arena that saw the Olympischer Tag in former times. It was the
IAAF’s Grand Prix Meeting I meeting in the GDR. And it was here, where
Uwe Hohn threw his javelin to the famous mark of 104,80 metres in 1984. The
stadium was partly rebuilt four years ago, when the German championships were
held there. It has around 19,000 seats.
„The stadiums in Oslo and Zurich also are not much bigger“,
Christian Schenk said and added: „In a full stadium we will have a great
atmosphere. And spectators will be very near to the athletes.“ As in the
old Olympic Stadium the track will not be a very hard one and there is always
the chance of a head wind in the Jahn-Stadium. But for middle and long distance
events as well as the throwing contests this could be a great place. So after
quite some trouble during the last year the new ISTAF team seems to have found
back on the way to success.