By Euan Cunningham

European Athletics is aiming to look beyond Covid-19 when it comes to allocating host cities for future events, the organisation's leader Dobromir Karamarinov said today.

In a roundtable with media, EA's interim president told media that apart from an ongoing emphasis on flexibility – making sure that the organisation is agile enough to respond to potential coronavirus flare-ups in host countries – it will be business as normal for the governing body when assessing bids and awarding championships from this point onwards.

Over the weekend, at the first face-to-face meeting of the European Athletics Council since 2019, the Spanish capital Madrid was awarded hosting rights for the 2023 European Athletics Team Championships Super League. 

However, with flexibility in mind, that award is dependent on athletics not being involved at the 2023 European Games in Krakow, Poland. If the sport is included, the Super League event will take place in Madrid in 2025.

Responding to a question from GlobalData Sport, Karamarinov said today: "At the moment, all our events are being awarded by a strong, normal bidding process…

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“Because we award events on a long-term basis, we really hope that [for events like the Madrid Super League] by 2023 everything will be normal and there will not be a situation where we need to change hosts or postpone.”

The president said he did not anticipate having to take on board Covid-19, which seriously impacted on EA's events programme last year, as a factor when awarding hosts beyond the current events cycle.

He did not confirm if the issue had been a factor in discussions with Madrid, but said that for now "the main watchword is flexibility – as it has been the last two years… We are ready to react if necessary with all our allocated host cities, in order to save the tournaments.”

Indeed, Karamarinov claimed that EA was planning for a much-heralded “return to normality” by as early as next year, adding: “We hope 2022 will be quite normal, the science is improving and we are making progress with the vaccines rollout.

“Our job this year is to still deliver our championships and events, even if it’s really difficult… We have been trying for normality this year, but the world is not quite ready yet.”

The EA council also allocated the 2023 Under-23 Championships to Espoo in Finland, and awarded Cluj-Napoca in Romania the 2023 Under-20 Championships.

Christian Milz, EA’s chief executive, added that the Covid-based requirements the organisation has when allocating host city status, mostly on a health and safety basis, “are not going to be deal-breakers… We can allocate most events without any additional requirements, it has been quite easy so far.”

He added that all hosts that were allocated events at the weekend’s council meeting “were very happy with our requirements".

“We are pushing more now in terms of assessing sustainability {of each bid]."

On EA's finances, which were impacted by a lack of events last year, Karamarinov said: "We have had some very good financial results… We have actually been able, thanks to these results, to increase our funding to the member federations… and will continue to support them until at least 2023.

“This is not the same situation as with other international sports federations.”

Meanwhile, touching on the increasingly-prevalent issue of athletes protesting around human rights and other social issues while at sporting events, with the possibility of such demonstrations at the Olympic Games in Tokyo later this year, Karamarinov said: “We have no need to mix sport with politics… Here at EA, we think that while all athletes have the right to their opinion, to express that opinion on the podium, is not something we see as a good example.

“We have to be very strict – the rules are the rules.”

Milz added that “sport has a way of breaking through social rules and barriers… at the moment, we are happy for these protests to stay off the podiums, but that is something we can look at in the future.”

Despite a surge in political activism across sport in recent years, the International Olympic Committee has said it is sticking to its policy of banning all on-field protests by athletes at the Olympics, and will consider sanctions for those that defy the regulation.