Historic Cologne event scrapped

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The Independent Online

Jesse Owens ran there and during its long history it has produced 13 world records, but now the future of the Cologne international meeting looks bleak after financial problems forced this year's edition to be cancelled yesterday.

The organiser, Manfred Germar, said the meeting, which was to be held on 20 August, had fallen victim to dwindling attendances and the shortage of available sponsorship money now that the Golden League events, a series of seven meetings around Europe that carries a million-dollar jackpot, have creamed off the best.

"Since the Golden League was founded, sponsors have mostly signed up for that series. Naturally, they lack the money for meets like ours," Germar said. "In the short term, there's no future for our meet."

Germar, who has run 28 of the meetings, has not been able to raise a budget of £625,000 and he said he would not consider putting on a scaled-down version of an event that has always attracted the sport's big names since its inception in 1934.

An early highlight in Cologne was the appearance by Owens in 1936, the year the American won four Olympic gold medals in Berlin. It has since become the second most prestigious track event in Germany behind Berlin's ISTAF, which forms part of the Golden League.

The event's prospects looked bleak two years ago when the 50th anniversary meeting had to be postponed for 12 months. "We learned then how hard it is, after a cancellation, to line up sponsors for the next year," said Germar, who will not continue to run the meeting, if it is revived. He took over as organiser in 1968 from the former German champion hurdler Fritz Nottbrock. Germar has a place in the meeting's record book as an athlete, having been part a 4x400 meters relay team in 1958 that produced the only world record set by Germans in the meeting's history. The event's grand prix status will be given to the meet at Nuremberg.

A total of 11,458 athletes from 114 countries have competed in Cologne since the meeting began, watched by an aggregate 1.3 million spectators in the stadium.

A final verdict on the former Olympic champion Dieter Baumann, who faces a two-year ban for testing positive for nandrolone, will not be taken for some weeks. The legal committee of the German athletics federation, the DLV, still has to study evidence and will reach a verdict at the end of April at the earliest, according to a DLV official.

Baumann, the 5,000 metres gold medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Games, was suspended in November after two random tests indicated levels of the banned anabolic substance 10 times over the accepted limit.

The German denied any wrongdoing and filed legal proceedings against unknown parties after the drug was found in his toothpaste, claiming it must have been injected maliciously. Under DLV rules, the automatic sanction for using anabolics, such as nandrolone, is a two-year ban. The DLV's legal committee, which has already heard evidence from Baumann, has the final word.