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The ISTAF history

ISTAF Berlin is one of the world’s long-standing and most visited athletics meeting. More than 50,000 spectators regularly visit the annually held major sport event in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium – altogether, more than two million visitors have flocked through the stadium gates. Amongst many other athletic top performances and personal bests, spectators have been treated to 16 world records so far.

The ISTAF story began July 3rd, 1921 when the sport clubs ‘Berliner SC’; ‘SC Charlottenburg’ and ‘Schwimm Club Poseidon’ hosted an international competition between German and international athletes in the former Grunewald stadium for the very first time, naming it ‘ISTAF’. 20,000 spectators experienced exciting competitions which during that time still included swimming contests.

Maurice Green
Maurice Green thanks the spectators in the stadium for their support, ISTAF 2003
Tonique Williams-Darling and Christian Olsson
Tonique Williams-Darling and Christian Olsson with "their" jackpot , ISTAF 2004
The jackpot: 1 million US$
The jackpot: 1 million US$

The ISTAF as we know it today was developed in March 1937, when the ‘Berliner SC’ (BSC), the ‘Deutscher Sport-Club’ (DSC, former OSC) as well as SC Charlottenburg (SCC) jointly organized the first ‘International Stadium Festival’ (ISTAF). On August 1st 1937, one year after the Olympic Games in Berlin, the ISTAF experienced its first major success, when two world and one European record could be witnessed by an audience of 85,000.

Since then, more than 70 International Stadium Festivals have taken place in the Olympic Stadium, the Mommsenstadion as well as the Deutschlandhalle. In 1940, between 1943 and 1948 as well as 1950 and 1951, the meeting had to be cancelled, due to World War II and post-war conditions. Due to the terrorist attack on the Israeli team during the Olympic Games in Munich, the ISTAF had to be called off in 1972 and 1973 as well.

David Rudisha
2010: world record for David Rudisha over 800 metre
Aries Merritt
Aries Merritt, new stadium record over men's 110 metres hurdles, ISTAF 2012

Subsequently, the ISTAF became established among the world’s leading athletics meetings. During the 1980s it was part of the IAAF Grand Prix series, followed by the Golden Four series during the 90s. From 1998 to 2002, the ISTAF served as final station of the Golden League.

Due to reconstruction works at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in preparation for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, in 2002 and 2003 the ISTAF was hosted at the sold-out Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahnsportpark. It still benefits from the high spirits surrounding the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, raising public awareness as well as increasing attendance figures way above 60,000. Additionally, the successful performance of German athletes in international competitions boosted public interest even more.

Since 2010, the ISTAF is part of the IAAF World Challenge. To this day, it shows the world’s leading German athletes competing against the best athletes in the world while being supported by companies such as NIKE, Spielbank Berlin as well as DKB.

Christian Reif
Christian Reif at the opening if the ISTAF 2014
Anita Wlodarczyk
hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk after her discus world record, ISTAF 2014

With the new event ISTAF INDOOR, a modern version was added 2014 under the roof of the multi-purpose Mercedes-Benz Arena. At the same time, the traditional ISTAF has been extensively modernized - known as the concept “ISTAF 3.0”. Static advertising boards made way for contemporary digital LED-perimeter displays; athletes are impressively presented by show elements such as music, light as well as pyrotechnics. This particular new concept not only attracts new audiences but serves as a model for the upcoming 2018 European Championship in Athletics in Berlin as well as other track and field events due to its innovative solutions and pioneering concept.

The 78th ISTAF will take place on September 1th, 2018 in the Olympic Stadium Berlin.