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(Daegu Athletics) IAAF President Diack notes 'extraordinary' championships
By Yoo Jee-ho
DAEGU, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- The city of Daegu has hosted an "extraordinary" World Championships in Athletics over the past nine days, the head of track and field's international governing body said Sunday.

   On the final day of the world championships, Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said at a closing press conference that the atmosphere throughout the event has been "absolutely beautiful."

   "We were greatly welcomed in a country where athletics is not a tradition," said Diack, a Senegalese, through an interpreter. "One couldn't dream of better conditions for development of our sport."

   Daegu was the first-time host of the biennial competition, the top IAAF event. Though the national team struggled on the field and the track, the IAAF chief was effusive about the overall organization.

   Diack said he enjoyed watching young people coming to Daegu Stadium and discovering track and field.

   "As of today, we're entering a new historical era," Diack said. "We here in Daegu, Korea, will have to raise the flag of athletics. It's very important in Asia."

   Diack said South Korean national television viewership for the Daegu event reached 60 million people, 10 times the figure from Osaka, the last Asian host in 2007. An additional 30 million people in Europe, a big TV market for athletics, watched the coverage.

   Diack also said the championships to this point have been free of positive drug tests. The IAAF said it has collected samples of all 1,848 athletes in competition, in addition to in-competition testing of some 500 random urine samples.

   "Athletes have passed the blood tests," Diack said. "Tests continued during the competition and results were the same."

   The president noted three medalists plus fourth- and fifth-place athletes were all controlled. The IAAF has boasted that its anti-doping campaign was "unprecedented," since nearly 2,000 athletes at the same competition received tests under the same optimal conditions.

   The IAAF said its collection of blood samples was aimed at helping it develop a biological passport, which serves as a database of references and allows experts to chart biomarkers over time.

   The local organizers plus the Korea Anti-Doping Agency (KADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratory in Seoul have been helping the IAAF in the anti-drug campaign.

   Also at the press conference, Kim Bum-il, mayor of Daegu and a co-chairman of the organizing committee, thanked Daegu citizens and volunteers for the event's smooth run, saying the competition here can rival past championships in other global cities.

   "I believe that this world championships has provided the perfect platform to further develop Korean athletics," Kim said. "The Korean public, especially those in the stadium, is now appreciative of how important and fun the sport of athletics can be."

   Kim acknowledged early hiccups with catering, accommodations and transportation for fans, championship officials and media. He said the experience "will be a valuable lesson for all of us as we look toward the future."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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