North-East athletics loses its flagship event

NORTH-EAST athletics has lost its flagship event after Britain's only Diamond League meeting outside London was switched to Birmingham.

The Aviva British Grand Prix has been staged at Gateshead International Stadium for the last five seasons, but poor ticket sales have led to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) switching next year's event to Birmingham.

The Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, one of 14 Diamond League events to be staged around the world, will take place on Sunday, July 10 in the newly-redeveloped Alexander Stadium.

Birmingham is already due to stage a major indoor meeting in February and the Aviva World Trials and UK Championships next July, and is now firmly established as Britain's secondary athletics hub outside the capital.

Confirmation of the switch is a major blow to both Gateshead International Stadium and North-East sport in general, but can hardly be regarded as a major surprise given the dwindling support for major athletics events in the region.

Despite the presence of Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Jessica Ennis, this summer's British Grand Prix attracted a sparse crowd to Gateshead, with banks of empty seats making an unattractive backdrop for both sponsors and television companies.

Speaking before this year's meeting in July, former Olympic triple jump champion and local favourite Jonathan Edwards admitted events in Gateshead could be in jeopardy if attendances did not improve.

“The meetings haven't been sold out lately and the Diamond League will look at the degree to which the public support the event," Edwards said. "If they don't, it could be vulnerable."

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