TOP-CLASS athletics returns to the North-East tomorrow with Stockton staging the Great North CityGames, and the region can look forward to some more international action after Gateshead International Stadium was announced as the venue for the next two stagings of the Muller Grand Prix.

With Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium undergoing some renovation work, British Athletics have been looking for an alternative venue for next year’s Grand Prix. They have settled on Gateshead, and also confirmed the International Stadium will stage the event in 2021 as well as 2020.

The news is a major boost to North-East athletics, and more specifically to Gateshead Stadium, which has not hosted a major international event since the European Team Championships took place there in 2013.

Gateshead has held Grand Prix events in the past, most notably in 2006 when Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell equalled the 100m world record by posting a time of 9.77secs.

“It’s brilliant to be returning to Gateshead,” said Cherry Alexander, major events organiser for British Athletics. “We know how passionate their spectators are and how much they appreciate and respect the heritage of the sport.

“Gateshead International Stadium has proved time and time again it’s a fantastic venue to host world-class athletics and international championships, so we know everyone is going to have a great experience once again.

“The whole area truly loves sport, so we know the athletes will be in for a really warm welcome.”

While Gateshead will have its moment in the sun next summer, attention switches to the south of the region tomorrow as the Great North CityGames switches to Stockton for the first time.

The street athletics event has become a traditional curtain-raiser for the Great North Run, but after a series of successful stagings on the banks of the River Tyne in Newcastle-Gateshead, today’s event will take place on a specially-built street circuit on Stockton High Street.

The action gets underway with the start of the men’s pole vault at 11.15am, with the final event, the women’s 150m, due to begin at 2.35pm.

The event has attracted a star-studded field, with British heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and American six-time sprint gold medallist Allyson Felix among the leading attractions.

Local interest will be dominated by Stockton sprinter Richard Kilty, who is set to compete in both the 100m and 150m, and Middlesbrough pole vaulter Charlie Myers, who will attempt to topple American Diamond League finalist Cole Walsh.

Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock will attempt to step up his preparations for November’s World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai when he competes in the 100m, and the reigning para World champion is looking forward to showcasing his skills on a street circuit.

“It should be really good,” said Peacock, who is a regular participant in the CityGames. “Coming down to Stockton, I think it’s going to be a bit different, but from what I’ve seen so far, the buzz seems to be really good. Everyone seems to be really excited for it.

“I’ve always loved the idea of the CityGames. For me, just chucking a track down on the middle of a High Street is so exciting. The crowd can feel how fast you are, they can hear and see it as you race past.

“It’s just different. A lot of athletes are going round the Diamond League circuit, constantly competing in stadiums, and they feel very disconnected and away from the crowd.

“This is the complete opposite. It’s still very serious competition, but it makes it a bit more about fun and putting on a good show for the people who come to watch.”