(10-Jun) -- The spectators in the audience may be just painted cardboard cutouts, but the action on the track will be real for tomorrow's Impossible Games in Bislett Stadium in Oslo, the made-for-television athletics exhibition which will replace the famous Bislett Games, part of the Wanda Diamond League. The meet, which will be aired on television in over 100 countries, will give athletics much-needed exposure where there has been little to no action due to the corona virus pandemic.
PHOTO: Henrik, Jakob and Filip Ingebrigtsen celebrate at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"It's not a traditional meeting; it's a television show," commented Bislett Games meet director Steiner Hoen at today's press briefing which, he admitted, was really a "talk show" because journalists could not be close to the athletes to ask questions. He added: "These are strange times."
The two-hour meet will encompass live action in Oslo, live action in Nairobi (which will be piped-in as a broadcast stream), and even the pre-recorded participation of 2012 Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie who competed yesterday in his backyard in France. His recorded clearances and misses will be integrated into the live pole vault competition where he will compete against world record holder Mondo Duplantis as the bar is raised.
"This is the first time ever Renaud can sit in front of the television drinking a beer watching himself compete," Hoen joked.
For middle and long distance running fans, the meet has a lot to offer. The most compelling event is a five-man team competition over 2000 meters where a squad led by the three Ingebrigtsen brothers --Filip, Henrik, and Jakob-- takes on another five-man team in Nairobi led by world 1500m champions Timothy Cheruiyot (2019) and Elijah Manangoi (2017). The event, called the Maurie Plant Memorial Race after the late Australian athletics agent and commentator, will be scored on the total time of the best three finishers for each team. The Kenyan team will be racing at 1975m of altitude, while the Norwegian team will be competing at sea level, a distinct advantage.
"We're getting excited," said 29 year-old Henrik, the oldest of the three brothers, at today's press briefing. He continued: "It's a good mix of feelings, actually. We're ready to race again. It's been so long and there hasn't been any races until now. We're still in training mode (so) it's a little bit different."
The Norwegian record of 5:01.48 by Marius Bakken from 2003 could easily be broken.
Filip, who is a 1500-meter specialist, will face a particularly difficult challenge. Prior to the 2000m team race, he will compete in a 1000m event where he hopes to break the Norwegian record of 2:16.78 set by 1996 Olympic 800m champion Vebjørn Rodal. That race is scheduled for 20:05 local time, while the 2000m race is scheduled for 20:50. Filip thinks he can challenge the record then come back about 40 minutes later to help his brothers.
"I've been pretty close to the record, once, four years ago," Filip said of his 2:16.95 clocking in Lausanne in August, 2016. "We'll see how fast I can go tomorrow." He added: "It's a Norwegian record which needs improving. I'm up for the challenge."
At the shorter end of the distance scale, two women will compete at the 600m distance, Switzerland's Selina Büchel and Norway's Hedda Hynne. To maintain social distancing guidelines they will run in individual lanes.
"It's something to be completely new to start in lanes," observed Büchel, twice the European Athletics Indoor Championships gold medalist at 800m. Starting ahead of Hynne, she won't be able to see her rival unless she is passed. "I think I will be nervous," she added. "I think this is the biggest challenge for tomorrow."
At the long end of the spectrum, Norwegian marathoner Sondre Nordstad Moen will run 25,000m. Already the national record holder for 10,000m (27:24.78), half-marathon (59:48) and the marathon (2:05:48), Moen could challenge the European record of 1:13:57.6 by the late Stéphane Franke of German from 1999, and also the Norwegian records for one hour (19,745m) and 20,000m (1:00.43.31).
"I choose that distance because my plan this year was to focus on the marathon," Moen explained today. "Since London and the Olympics are cancelled, I didn't focus on shorter distances in training. Since I wanted to try to break some of the old records on the track, I think the 25-K is the more easiest because I have to run alone most of the race."
A special "wave light" system will be employed on the edge of the track which will help Moen maintain his pace, in lieu of an actual pacemaker.
"I think it will be useful," he said.
While Moen is running, two of his female compatriots, Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal and Therese Johaug, will be running alone for 3000m and 10,000m, respectively. Grøvdal will try for Grete Waitz's Norwegian record of 8:31.75, while Johaug --a three-time Olympic medalist in cross country skiing-- will try to run 31:50.00.
"It's always something special with Bislett Games or Impossible Games," said Grøvdal who has seven European championships medals in cross country and track. "This is also first race of the season for me." She added: "I'm looking forward to competing tomorrow."
Tomorrow's meet will begin at 17:00 CET (11:00 a.m. EDT). A list of broadcasters is available at this link - Impossible Games . The meet will also be streamed on the Wanda Diamond League Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DiamondLeague/