Thoroughbreds for Leopardstown

 

An operational budget of close to £1 million is being projected for the 29th World Cross Country championships to be held at Leopardstown racecourse on March 24th-25th next year.

Dublin was officially confirmed as the venue for the championships at a meeting of IAAF officials, attended by Nick Davis, president of the Athletics Association of Ireland, in Villamoura on Saturday.

The bill for the championship which ended in the Algarve yesterday is thought to have amounted to £1.1 million, which reflects how the event has expanded to the point where it is one of the centre pieces of the athletics season.

It will be quite the biggest sports presentation mounted in Ireland in modern years. In addition to the state-funding which is a prerequisite for staging events of this importance, extensive corporate sponsorship will be sought to defray costs.

Welcoming the return of the championships to Ireland, Davis said the choice of Dublin as host city reflected Ireland's growing influence in perhaps the world's most international sporting discipline.

"It is not just a tribute to our special tradition in cross country running, but a recognition of the successful manner in which we have staged these championships in the past," Davis said. "Above all, it's a great opportunity for the Irish public to come out and watch the world's best runners in action, and the choice of Leopardstown as the venue ensures a perfect setting for the meeting."

The great hope of Irish officials is that Sonia O'Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan will both be on the starting line to present a powerful Irish challenge for the women's championship.

O'Sullivan said yesterday she hoped to be in a position to run in Dublin, and while McKiernan is now concentrating on road running, there is every prospect she too will decide to compete.

Dublin played host to the international championship, as it was then known, at Baldoyle race course in 1937 and 1949, and again at Leopardstown in 1964.

Limerick was the venue in 1979 when John Treacy recorded one of the great triumphs of the century in Irish sport by winning the men's championship for a second consecutive year.