Türkiye earthquakes cast shadow over European Indoor Championships in Istanbul
From 2 to 5 March, around 600 athletes from over 50 countries will compete at the European Indoor Championships in the Ataköy Arena in Istanbul. But the devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye and its neighbour Syria in February have cast a shadow over an event that was supposed to be a celebration of the country and the sport.
After long discussions about whether or not the European Indoor Championships should go on, European Athletics opted for organising a scaled-back edition of the event. Many festivities in the city were scrapped, and 1 euro per ticket sold will be donated to charities helping the victims of the disaster.
"European Athletics has decided to let the European Indoor Championships go ahead. That is certainly positive for the athletes who have been working towards it for a long time," said Team Belgium's delegation leader Rutger Smith to Belga. "But a sombre mood will hang over the EC. That is only natural. (...) The country remains in mourning and is going through a difficult period."
As far as the actual competition goes, Team Belgium is looking to repeat its result of five medals during the previous European Indoor Championships in 2021. Two-time Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam is the obvious frontrunner of the selection. The athlete from Brussels should have no problem defending her title in Istanbul. Indoor World Champion Noor Vidts, meanwhile, is one of the favourites for the pentathlon discipline.
Other disciplines might prove more difficult for the Belgians to conquer. Middle-distance runners Elise Vanderelst and Isaac Kimeli, respectively gold and silver medalists in 2021, will not take part this year. And the 4x400 relay team is unsure whether Dylan Borlée will be able to race after a hard fall during a competition in Madrid.
But Team Belgium remains hopeful. “Among the five medals from the previous indoor European Championships, there were some very surprising top threes. That number was above expectations," said Smith. "If our athletes all perform in line with their qualities, getting the same number of medals is possible."
The Istanbul skyline. © BELGA PHOTO JORGE DIRKX