IAAF World Youth Championships - Jim Spier’s Blog from Donetsk- updated daily

by Jim Spier

Donetsk Days 1 and 2

After lunch on Monday we had the yearning for gelato.  We walked and walked and couldn’t find any.  We saw a Mc Donald’s and decided to settle for their ice cream.  There were 3 times as many employees as would be justified in a US Mc Donald’s.  The clerks were begging to get you to their cash register to serve you.  So we satisfied our cravings and settled and prepared for the meet.

That night we decided to get a “snack” at the hotel’s restaurant.  It is a very large place in this hotel (Stolnichyia) which has 360 rooms.  The hotel seems to be empty, but it’s early in the week and it may fill up.  The snack turned out to be a greek salad, dumplings (stuffed with cabbage) and borscht.  The food was typically Eastern European and quite good.

On Tuesday we attended the introductory press conference.  The usual local dignitaries were present, as well as IAAF head Lamine Diack and pole vault world record holder Sergey Bubka.

After that group concluded their opening remarks, the leading athletes were brought to the dais as well as IAAF athlete rep and Olympic medalist Ato Bolden.  Included were the US Ariana Washington and discus leader Matthew Denny of Australia.  Ariana mentioned that she went to Long Beach Poly HS (CA) as an aspiring basketball player but eventually turned to track.  She said her ultimate goal was to be “… the fastest runner on the planet”.

There were the usual questions and answers, and the session was concluded by Ato Bolden.  He offered five pieces of advice for athletes to follow as they enter the world stage:

Form friendships.  Ato said he first met Kareem Streete-Thompson and Haile Gebreselaisie at his first Junior meet, for example, and has had a lifelong relationship with them.  Those friendships may be the most valuable thing taken out of championships.

“The road to success is littered with young talent”.  Even though success may have been achieved early, the athletes should think 5 to 6 years ahead and not dwell on the early victories.

Temptation to “cut corners”, meaning the possibility of performance-enhancing drugs.

The best decision may not be the easiest.  That is, moving out of one’s comfort zone may be the best decision in an athlete’s development.  Mo Farah, the British world champion in the 10,000 meters, moved from his home country to Eugene, OR to train under Alberto Salazar, for example.

Whether you like it or not, you are now a role model.  You are your country’s ambassador, so do nothing to bring a bad light to your behavior.

Well said, Ato!

A bit about Donetsk.

It is a city of about 1,000,000 in the eastern part of the Ukraine, the fifth largest city in the Ukraine.  The July temperature averages 80 degrees.  It is 48 degrees north latitude, about the same latitude as Vancouver, Canada and much of the U.S. Canadian border.

It was ruled by the soviets prior to the fall of the iron curtain and its name was formerly “Stalino”.  It was occupied by the Nazis for two years during World War II.  From Wikipedia:

In the beginning of World War II, the population of Stalino consisted of 507,000, and after the war, only 175,000. The Nazi invasion during World War II almost completely destroyed the city, which was mostly rebuilt on a large scale at the war's end. It was occupied by Nazi Germany between 16 October 1941 and 5 September 1943.

The territory of Donetsk at the time of the Nazi German occupation consisted mainly of a Jewish ghetto, in which 3,000 Jews died, and a concentration camp in which 92,000 people were killed.[8] During the war, a collective responsibility system was enforced. For every killed German soldier, 100 inhabitants were killed, and one for every killed policeman.

Ethnically, 48% of the inhabitants are Russian and 46% are Ukrainian.  Greeks and other eastern Europeans comprise the rest of the population.  The main industries are coal mining and the steel industry.

All in all, the city is quite beautiful, with many parks and sculptures on the streets and parks throughout.

2013 WY – Donetsk, Ukraine – Getting There

Paul Limmer, Joy Kamani and I continued on from our trip to Finland to Donetsk.

The alternative would be to go home the athletes we brought to Finland last Thursday, then depart the US for Donetsk on Saturday.  The most cost-effective thing was to stay over for 3 days.

We spent Thursday and Friday nights in Helsinki, then Saturday night in Munich.  We all left on Sunday morning.  Paul went from Munich to Donetsk via Kiev, and Joy and I went to Donetsk via Istanbul.

Joy and I got bumped to business class (which is not a bad way to go) so we started off in the Lufthansa business class lounge in Munich where we had breakfast.  Then, on Lufthansa from Munich to Istanbul, where we were served lunch.

We had heard about the Turkish Air business class lounge in Istanbul and were anxious to kill time there before our next flight four hours from when we landed.  We entered it and it was beyond what we had heard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiIe2-WmomM

There were at least six full-time chefs there, manning things like a pizza oven, hot buffet, cold buffet, dessert area, fresh fruit area, etc.  So we did a little noshing and finally had to leave for Istanbul.

The ticket said we were to board at 5:15pm for the 6:15pm flight.  In the area were teams from Canada, Kenya, Algeria, Chile and many other teams I could not readily identify. 

Apparently they were oversold by one seat.  That caused a bit of chaos, with agents from Turkish Air scrambling around and yelling at each other.  We were finally allowed to board at about 6:00pm.  The families with small children had boarded five minutes prior.  So, after all the waiting, we were finally being allowed to board the plane.

We rushed down the jetway only to see the families with small children about 20 feet away from the door of the plane.  We waited there for 10 minutes.  Then the agent said, “You can all move down jetway, but only to plane’s door”.  Which we did, and waited for another 10 minutes.

We finally boarded and were in business class.  Turkish Air certainly rivals Lufthansa I have discovered.  Lufthansa has been my favorite airline for many years.  Turkish Air, I found out, had been voted the best European airline for the last three years.   That’s saying something!

So the plane took off and our journey continued, as did our eating.  We were served another great meal.

We finally landed in Donetsk at about 8:30 pm on Sunday night.  We were met by young, eager volunteers, one of whom escorted us to our van (we were credentialed media) and sent us off to our hotel in Donetsk, about a half hour ride away.

We checked into our hotel and awaited the arrival of Paul.  His flight was delayed an hour or so.  He arrived at about midnight and we looked forward to the excitement of being at a major meet.

We had breakfast in the hotel (Hotel Stolnichyia) and then took a walk to the stadium to get our credentials.  The stadium is about 1 km from the hotel.



We saw the sign that said “Accreditation Centre”.  “That was easy” we thought.  We approached a volunteer in the center, and she explained that the media accreditation center was on the other side of the stadium.  So we walked across the infield and tried to get into the other side of the stadium but a young volunteer stopped us and said “You must have credential”.  We said, “that’s what we were there for”.   She didn’t understand so we just kept walking.

We finally asked someone where the media accreditation center was and he said, “on the other side of the stadium”.  We said, “that’s where we just came from”.  We ignored him and continued up several flights of stairs searching for someone from the IAAF.

Jackpot!  We spotted Yannis of the IAAF office, a person we have known for several years.  “Ah, the American trio!”, he said.  He directed us to a little building outside the stadium.

There we met Igor, a college English professor who was head of the media volunteers.  He was very helpful and informative and gave us our credentials.

We sat in the media tribune for a bit, watching the extensive setup of the timers, sound system and TV.  It is really quite an operation.  We also noticed a worker with an 18” push mower mowing the entire infield! 

We walked back to the hotel.  I did a bit of research and found that the restaurant in the Hotel Victoria was rated as one of the best in Donetsk.  Coincidentally, that’s where the U.S. team is staying.

We walked the 2 km or there.  We saw Katie Branham (from the USATF office, who was also on our flight from Istanbul to Donetsk, having flown there from Indianapolis and Chicago on Saturday).

We had a very nice lunch, then stopped by in the lobby to talk with some of the U.S. kids:  Marlon Humphrey, Isaiah Moore and Ariana Washington, among others.  They were delightful.

Tomorrow is the introductory press conference which will include some of the leading athletes present, including Ms. Washington.  Joy will also get her photographer’s instructions as well.  The real fun begins on Wednesday with the preliminary rounds.


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