Tributes paid as European Athletics president Hansen dies
Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics, has died at the age of 74.
Hansen, the long-time organiser of the famous Bislett Games, died at his home in Oslo, Norway at the weekend from complications arising from a stroke he suffered on 15 March.
In a statement, Dobromir Karamarinov, who has been serving as interim president of European Athletics, in Hansen's absence, said: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Svein Arne today (Saturday). He was a great leader, a visionary for our sport and a charismatic personality within the athletics family. We have lost a great man.”
Christian Milz, European Athletics chief executive, added: “I had the honour and privilege to work with Svein Arne for a number of years prior to 2015, and since then as our president. He was always trying his best to promote the sport, and always with a smile on his face.”
Having started his career in sports as a member of the Norwegian Athletics Federation Junior Committee, Hansen was assistant meeting director of the Bislett Games from 1973 to 1984, before being promoted to meeting director.
Hansen spent 24 years as director of the Bislett Games, while also serving as a member of the IAAF Grand Prix Commission from 1985 to 1998 and the IAAF Golden League working group from 1997 to 2009.
He also had a long association with the Norwegian Athletics Association, serving as vice-president from 2001 to 2003 and president from 2003 to 2015.
He was elected president of European Athletics in 2015, succeeding Hansjorg Wirz, and was re-elected last year.
At European Athletics, he was an ally of World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and a vocal campaigner against the doping scandals that have tarnished the sport, helping to introduce the “I Run Clean” anti-doping education programme.
Many of the biggest names in athletics have paid tribute to Hansen.
Coe said: “Today I lost one of my closest friends. We have known each other for 43 years. Svein gave me my first big international break in athletics at the Bislett Games in Oslo and provided me with the platform for two of my three world records in 41 days back in 1979.
“He brought a professionalism to our one-day meetings that is still the template today and crucially he had the political savvy to be able to do that and navigate the sport from an amateur era into becoming an open sport and then a professional sport when there was a real risk that fault lines between East and West Europe could split the sport apart.”
Hansen played a significant role in the launch of the multi-sports European Championships, including athletics, the first edition of which was held in Glasgow and Berlin in 2018, and which returns in Munich in 2022.
Libor Varhanik, Czech Athletics president, European Athletics council member and interim chair of the board of the 2022 European Championships, said: “A true leader of integrity and athletics man to the core, he made a tremendous contribution to our sport which we as the next generation owe him to continue.
Noel Curran, director general of the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mainly public-service broadcasters and a long-time partner of European Athletics, said: “This is a huge loss for the European Athletics family and for all of us at the EBU that knew him. European Athletics has lost a great leader and we at the EBU have lost a true friend and supporter of Public Service Media.”