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RECORDS SET TO TUMBLE AT CARDIFF’S MINI-OLYMPICS

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Brett Morse

16 July 2012

Welsh athletics boss Matt Newman is predicting an avalanche of all-comers records at the biggest international athletics event staged in Wales in 54 years next week.

The London 2012 Olympic Games may not kick-off until 25 July at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, but the Welsh capital will host its own mini-Olympics a week earlier.

More than 100 international athletes from more than 20 nations will be at Cardiff International Sports Stadium on Wednesday, 18 July for the biggest and best Welsh Athletics International since the Commonwealth Games was staged in the city way back in 1958.

The European permit event, which features $25,000 worth or prize money, will give athletes from such powerful athletics nations as the USA, Kenya, Trinidad & Tobago, Italy, Sweden, Estonia, Poland and members of Great Britain the chance to have one final warm-up before the ‘main event’ in London.

“This is the biggest athletics event we’ve hosted in Wales in living memory. It promises to be an unmisable night of world class athletics and entertainment that will not only get the athletes in the mood for London, but also the spectators,” said Matt Newman, Chief Executive of Welsh Athletics.

“We’re installing a big screen so everyone can catch the action, arranging autograph sessions with the big names and putting on some musical entertainment. It promises to be one of the sporting highlights of the Welsh summer and will give everyone the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s best athletes.

“For those people who haven’t been able to get tickets to watch the Olympic Games live, this is the next best thing. I have no doubt there will be medallists at London 2012 who will be thanking Cardiff for helping them on their road to glory.”

Newman has already put the Welsh athletics statisticians on general alert with the prospect of a number of all-comers records being lowered given the standard of the athletes signed-up so far – and the levels of interest shown by many others who are looking for a final stepping stone to London 2012.

Team GB athletes Lynsey Sharp and Mervyn Luckwell are among the British athletes included in the lineup. The event will also provide some of Wales’ own Olympians, discus thrower Brett Morse and 800 metre runner Gareth Warburton, with a chance to show their home fans exactly what they can do against world-class opposition.

“It will be great to have a suitable stage on which to show-case some of our five Olympians and I’m sure the fans will want to give them a rousing reception ahead of London,” said Newman.

“The event will also give a number of other Welsh athletes a rare chance to test themselves against international opposition on home soil. Double UK javelin champion Lee Doran just missed out on Olympic selection, but will be able to use this event to further his personal best and launch his 2014 Commonwealth Games push.

“The same will be true for two other throwers, hammer star Carys Parry and shot putter Ryan Spencer-Jones. We will be announcing the qualifying standards for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this summer and that event is now the new focal point for our leading athletes.”

Tickets for the 2,500-seater stand at the Cardiff International Sports Stadium are selling fast, but Newman reckons there is still plenty of room to accommodate as many fans again around the perimeter fences.

“With the big screen we are installing there will be a chance for everyone to see what is going on and the fact you can walk around the arena means you will be able to almost touch some of the athletes in many events ,” said Newman.

“There is plenty of free parking across the road at the Cardiff City Stadium and this is a chance for everyone in Wales to get into the Olympic spirit on their own doorstep.”

The Welsh Athletics International event is part-funded by the Welsh Government. First Minister, Carwyn Jones commented:

"This is a unique opportunity for Wales to host some of the world's top  track and field  athletes competing  just days away from the start of the Olympic Games. For those who failed to get tickets to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, this is a chance to see world class  athletes  competing  here in Cardiff , some of whom may well become Olympic medallists in the coming weeks "

Tickets for the event, which also includes an Under 20 international match between Wales, Welsh Schools, England and Scotland, are £5 and are available on-line via the AAW website – www.welshathletics.org – or on the gate on the night.

The Under 20 match starts at 5.00pm and the International meeting runs between 7.00-9.30pm. The main event will feature 100, 200, 800, 3000 and 400H races for men and 100, 200, 400, 1500 and 100H for women.

In the field events there will be long jump, discus and javelin for the men and high jump, pole vault and hammer for the women. There will also be 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay events for both men and women.