By Bob Ramsak
MONACO -- Punta Umbria, a coastal city in Huelva, Andalusia, Spain, will host 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the sport's world governing body announced at its council meeting in Monte Carlo over the weekend.
A popular Southern seaside attraction, the selection of this city of 15,000 in the province of Huelva will mark the third time Spain will host the world's finest foot runners. Madrid played host in 1981 and the Basque city of Amorebieta hosted in 1993.
The championships, set for March 20, 2011, will take place on a two kilometer loop course close to the town center.
The 2010 championships will be held in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on March 28.
The IAAF Council meeting coincided with the annual World Athletics Gala, hosted by Prince Albert II and the International Athletics Foundation at the Salle des Etoiles of the Sporting Club d’Eté on Sunday. Double world champion and world record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the best male athlete of the year honor for the second straight year. U.S. 400m record holder Sanya Richards was named best female athlete, also for the second time. She also received the honor in 2006. Senegalese recording artist Youssou N'Dour provided the musical entertainment.
The weekend's activities also included the official launch of the IAAF Diamond League, the series of the world's finest 14 one-day meetings. Among the league's eight athlete Ambassadors on hand at the Saturday evening event was double world champion Kenenisa Bekele. The nine premiere athletes contracted by the series --others include sprinters Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, high jumper Blanka Vlasic, pole vaulters Yelena Isinbayeva and Steven Hooker, 400m world champion Sanya Richards, and two-time Olympic javelin throw champion Andreas Thorkildsen-- have each agreed to compete in at least seven of the 14 meets. The series will begin in Doha, Qatar, on May 14, 2010, and will conclude with a double final in Zurich (Aug 19) and Brussels (27 Aug).