IAAF AND BUPA GREAT NORTH RUN TO DISPLAY DRAMATIC OPENING CEREMONY TO RECOGNISE MILLIONTH FINISH MILESTONE
· Protocol ceremony hosted by IAAF President Lamine Diack, Brendan Foster, Paula Radcliffe, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Haile Gebrselassie and Mike McLeod
· Millionth Finish achievement officially recognised by IAAF's Athletics for a Better World programme
To mark the Bupa Great North Run becoming the first ever running event to reach a historic millionth finish, a spectacular Opening Ceremony will be hosted on the banks of the Tyne on Thursday 04 September.
The evening will also see the Millionth Finish achievement officially recognised by the IAAF's Athletics for a Better World global social responsibility programme.
Ahead of the annual run on Sunday 07 September, the evening will commence with a protocol ceremony hosted by the President of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, and feature some of the most legendary names in the sport.
Brendan Foster, founder of the Great North Run plus athletics royalty including Haile Gebrselassie, Paula Radcliffe, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Mike McLeod will all be part of the milestone occasion and the unveiling of the first Millionth Finish flag.
Ahead of the ceremony Foster said, "We are delighted to announce that the President of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, will be overseeing the official protocol for the Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony, celebrating Tyneside as the first ever host of the Millionth Finish.
"Such is the stature of the accomplishment that the Millionth Finish event is being included in the IAAF's Athletics for a Better World initiative, which we are enormously proud of."
Athletics for a Better World (ABW) was launched by the IAAF earlier this year and uses the universality of athletics to make a positive difference by helping to support and promote projects around the world in the fields of Peace, Social Inclusion, Environment and Health.
The Bupa Great North Run has, for many decades, given ordinary citizens from all over the world the chance to be inspired and motivated to use athletics as a way to become fit and healthy and, through charity support, to also generously give to others.
These achievements were the driving factors in the IAAF welcoming the event to the Athletics for a Better World programme.
IAAF President Lamine Diack said, "Athletics for a Better World is a crucial initiative made up of a number of inspirational projects throughout the world aiming to encourage and promote athletics to millions as a way to create fit and healthy lifestyles.
"The Millionth Finish of the Bupa Great North Run is an extraordinary achievement which we welcome into Athletics for a Better World and I would like to thank Brendan Foster and his team for the phenomenal work they have done since 1981 to make this IAAF Gold Label Road Race not just an important fixture in world athletics but also a part of the rich Athletics culture in Great Britain."
Paula Radcliffe, one of the greatest female marathon runner of all time, has held the women's course record for the Bupa Great North Run since 2000. The Bedford and County athlete made her debut in that year and won in 67min 07sec, breaking the previous record that had stood for twelve years to the great Grete Waitz of Norway.
In 2003 Radcliffe set her stunning world marathon record of 2hr 15min 25sec in London and also improved her Bupa Great North Run record to a similarly scorching 65min 40sec. Both marks still stand unchallenged, eleven years on.
Now 40 and an Ambassador of Athletics for a Better World, the mother-of-two has become a popular member of the BBC television athletics commentary team that also includes Great North Run founder and Chairman Brendan Foster.
Haile Gebrselassie can lay claim to being the greatest male distance runner of all-time. The 41-year-old Ethiopian has broken an incredible 26 world records, at distances ranging from 3,000m indoors to the marathon. He has won an IAAF World Indoor title as a 1500m runner and two Olympic and four IAAF World Championship titles at 10,000m.
In 2010 he fulfilled a long-standing promise to Brendan to make his Bupa Great North Run debut in the 30th running of the race. He won in 59min 33sec, finishing almost two minutes clear of Kiplimo Kimutai of Kenya. He returned to Tynseide for the 2013 race, finishing third after a thrilling battle with Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah.
Mike McLeod was the very first finisher of the very first Great North Run. Fittingly a Newcastle man, the Elswick Harrier won the inaugural race in June 1981. The Olympic 10,000m silver medallist also won in 1982, and twice finished runner up in the race.
"It meant a hell of a lot to be the first runner home in the first Great North Run," said McLeod.
"And it means a lot now. To have the one-millionth finish in the race in 2014 is going to be a fantastic achievement."
No athlete has savoured more success in the Bupa Great North Run than Tanni Grey-Thompson. The great Welsh Paralympian reeled off two notable winning streaks in the women's wheelchair section of the 13.1 mile event: three in a row from 1991 to 1992, and then five in a row from 1995 to 1999.
That makes eight Bupa Great North Run titles in all, to go alongside the remarkable haul of eleven Paralympic titles she won between 1992 and 2004.
Now 45, the former Tanni Grey has become Baroness Grey-Thompson and was made a life peer in 2010. Tanni still plays a key part in the event, manning a water station just past the halfway point with volunteers from her local athletics club, New Marske Harriers.
During the Opening Ceremony, the flag will be paraded in two parts along the Quayside in front of the spectators. It will then be joined together to create a unified flag. This flag will be passed to each subsequent event to record their millionth finish and become a key part of celebrations around the world.
This flag will be escorted along the Bupa Great North Run course on Sunday by members of the Royal Marines taking part in the event. It will then be raised in South Shields to congratulate the millionth finisher, in a presentation by Brendan Foster and IAAF Vice President Lord Sebastian Coe.
Tickets are on sale for the event subject to availability at www.gnrmillion.org priced at £12 for adults and £7 for children.
Notes to editors:
Athletics for a Better World (ABW) is the global social responsibility programme of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Launched in April 2014, ABW brings together individuals, projects and organisations committed to using athletics as a tool for social and sustainable development. The ABW mark is available to all athletics-led initiatives that deliver a positive contribution in the areas of health, environment, social inclusion and peace.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is the international governing body for athletics. Founded in 1912 at its first congress in Sweden, the IAAF has a total of 212 members divided into 6 area associations. It was established to fulfil the need for a world governing authority, for a competition programme, for standardised technical equipment and for a list of official World records.
Led by President Lamine Diack, the IAAF is responsible for organising many major athletics competitions worldwide as part of the World Athletics Series which is headed by the World Championships, as well as the Diamond League circuit, the IAAF Road Race Label series, and other IAAF permit events.
Bupa Great North Run Culture is an annual series of arts projects, events and exhibitions that celebrate and explore sport and art. Featuring film, photography, dance, drama, writing, participation projects and more, we use the world's greatest half-marathon as the starting point for commissioning exciting, innovative and accessible work, "...linking the worlds of art and sport in a unique and innovative way," Culture24. www.greatnorthrunculture.org
The Bupa Great North Run is brought to you by Nova International and is sponsored by Bupa. Nova International, headed by Olympic medallist Brendan Foster also organise some of the biggest running events in the world, all based on the Bupa Great North Run, the world's leading half marathon with 57,000 entries in 2014. Nova International was established in 1988 and has a strong sporting pedigree. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Nova has established itself as a market leader in the world of sports marketing and event management. www.greatrun.org
Bupa is a leading international healthcare group with over 22m customers in 190 countries. This year Bupa's 'Your First Step' campaign will be inspiring people of all ages to take their first step towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.
For more information on how Bupa can help you prepare for a running challenge visit: www.bupa.co.uk/running.
Port of Tyne was North East Business of the Year 2013 and is the fastest growing major UK deep—sea port. Adding £500m to the economy of North East England and supporting 10,500 jobs.
The Port has achieved five years on record growth across its business which includes bulk and conventional cargo, car terminals, cruise and ferry, logistics and a portfolio of commercial property.
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