ISTAF 2020: Spectators, records, goosebumps and a crazy atmosphere

17. September 2020

5,000 people were allowed to be “present at the same time“ in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday. And it was obvious when you looked into the faces of everyone how much they longed for the ISTAF: World-class athletes shined with spectacular performances, the couple of hundreds of ISTAF employees, service providers and volunteers were committed to provide a perfect organization and 3,500 spectators created a noise and an atmosphere as if there were 50,000 in the arena. They all celebrated an extraordinary athletics party together. And they were over the moon, very happy and got goosebumps – but everyone always maintained social distancing. 

„The 2020 ISTAF was a major success: we got a real great atmosphere and outstanding performances – and on top we came to the conclusion that it was well worth it to have organized the ISTAF during these difficult times,“ said Meeting Director Martin Seeber. „Our concept has worked. And the ISTAF showed that sporting events are possible again with spectators. The first small step back to normality was a successful one. We have to say thank you very much to the 3,500 fans who have stuck to the strict safety and hygiene rules and who magically created the unique ISTAF atmosphere for the athletes in the Olympic Stadium. We also thank all those who made the event possible – first of all our partners, the medical staff, the Berlin Senate and its department for internal affairs and sport as well as the health authority in charge.“

Berlin’s governing mayor Michael Müller was present and he was enthusiastic as well. „The 3,500 ISTAF fans created a top atmosphere and loved being back for the event. You could feel that the athletes craved for receiving the recognition of the fans again. A big compliment to all involved, the ISTAF was organized very well.“

The world’s oldest athletics meeting was one of the first major sporting events to allow back spectators into the stadium despite the corona virus restrictions. This was possible because a detailed safety and hygiene concept was in place. 3,500 spectators witnessed a true athletics spectacle in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. All 106 athletes were tested for the corona virus in cooperation with the Berlin Charité Hospital and all tests were negative. That happened before the meeting where they then presented themselves in record mood.

This applies first of all to Karsten Warholm. The 24 year-old Norwegian flew over the blue track and reached the line in 47.08 seconds. It was his third fastest time ever. He missed the world record by just three tenth of a second. And it was a historic feat: The Norwegian broke the 40 year-old meeting record of US legend Edwin Moses. „I love this track,“ said Karsten Warholm. „The ISTAF is simply the best athletics meeting in the world. I want to come back at any rate.“

In another event a world record seemed possible. However the wind blew it away. Pole Vault superstar Armand “Mondo“ Duplantis had a go at 6.15 m, which no-one has ever cleared outdoors. However with the slight winds from changing directions the 20 year-old did not make it. But he still won with 5.91 m.

A number of records did fall elsewhere: Britain’s star runner Laura Muir clocked 3:57.40 minutes in the 1,500 m, which is a meeting record and a world lead. In the 3,000 m Steeplechase Kenyans Hyvin Kiyeng and Beatrice Chepkoech, who is the world record holder, produced a thrilling duel. Kiyeng was the winner with 9:06.14 and moved up to the top of the world season’s list.  

The Triple Jump produced a dramatic competition as well: Until the last round German Champion Max Heß was in the lead. He had jumped 17.17 m, which is his second best outdoors. However then came Christian Taylor. With his final jump the two time Olympic Champion and four time World Champion achieved a world lead of 17.57 m. „Competing at the ISTAF is a dream come true. It had been on my bucket list for a long time,“ said Christian Taylor. There was a very close fight for victory in the women’s Long Jump as well. While Ukraine’s Maryna Romanchuk-Bekh won with 6.87 m Germany’s World Champion Malaika Mihambo was satisfied with second place and 6.77 m. She used a shorter run-up with only 16 strides. „The 3,500 spectators have given everything and pushed us.“

„I am really happy,“ said Paralympics athlete Niko Kappel. He took the Shot Put with 13.91 m. While Kappel’s mark was below his own world record there was a record broken in this discipline: Germany’s top talent Yannis Fischer achieved a mark of more than ten metres for the first time. In the competition group F40 he established a German record with 10.08 m.