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  Friday, 27 July, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
2001 has a lot to live up to
Sergie Bubka in action in 1983
Sergei Bubka has won a record six consecutive golds
Within the space of 20 years the International Amateur Athletic Federation's World Championships has become the third largest sporting event in the world.

Measured in terms of a worldwide television audience the championships take bronze behind football's World Cup and the Olympics.

As if to celebrate the burgeoning growth of the event it is venturing to new grounds in its 18th year for an eighth World Championships.

In 2001, for the first time, North America welcomes the biennial celebration of the track and field world.

  Where and when
1983 - Helsinki, Finland
1987 - Rome, Italy
1991 - Tokyo, Japan
1993 - Stuttgart, Germany
1995 - Gothenb'g, Sweden
1997 - Athens, Greece
1999 - Seville, Spain
However, instead of one of the global cities of America, the organisers have instead opted for the relative backwater of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.

And Edmonton 2001 has a lot to live up to.

The inaugural IAAF World Championships was held in Helsinki in 1983 and since then, wherever the bandwagon has gone, athletic drama has followed closely on its heels.

Through Rome, Tokyo, Stuttgart, Gothenburg, Athens and Seville records have fallen and great champions have been crowned.

The World Championships has also produced some memorable head-to-heads.

In Helsinki the home crowd roared their support for Tiina Lillak as she nudged out Britain's Fatima Whitbread in the final round of the women's javelin.

Eight years later Tokyo was host to one of the greatest athletic battles in recent history.

Mike Powell and Carl Lewis fought for gold in the long jump and in the process broke one of the sport's oldest record.

Carl Lewis in action in 1987
Lewis is a central figure in the history of the championships
Lewis, who had won triple sprint golds in 1983 and 1987, broke Bob Beamon's 23-year-old record of 8.90 metres but his jump of 8.91 was deemed illegal for record purposes as the wind exceeded the legal limit.

When it dropped Powell lifted the roof with a jump of 8.95m, a new world record and a gold medal against a man who had not lost in the event for a decade.

Following the success of the first three championships the IAAF changed the format and made it a biennial event.

The drama remained the same.

In Stuttgart the women's 100 metres final was the highlight with Gail Devers and Merlene Ottey its central figures.

Devers looked to be running imperiously to gold but in the final five metres her Jamaican opponent surged for the line.

After a long delay both sprinters were given the same time of 10.82 seconds but the American was given gold in a photo-finish.

That year Colin Jackson gave British supporters cause to celebrate with a world record in the 110 metres hurdles and two years later Jonathan Edwards followed suit.

Michael Johnson in action in 1999
Johnson has won a record nine championship golds
Edwards became the first man to leap through the 18-metre mark in the first round of the triple jump before extending his record to 18.29m in the second.

The leaps meant that the Briton became the first man to set consecutive triple jump records.

One of the features of the first championships in Finland was the sprinting prowess of Lewis and Marita Koch who also won a golden sprint triple.

In Athens in 1997 the championship was once again the domain of the sprinters.

Sergei Bubka may have taken his sixth consecutive world championship gold in the pole vault but it was Maurice Greene and Marion Jones who took the headlines.

And in 1999 the pair returned to successfully defend their titles in fine style.

Jones won with the fastest time of the year and Greene emulated Lewis by winning back-to-back titles and a triple sprint gold.

Michael Johnson went one step further and eclipsed the eight golds that Lewis won by winning a ninth championship gold.

Stacy Dragila tied the world record in the women's pole vault, Abel Anton delighted the home crowd when he became the oldest ever champion with victory in the marathon and Haile Gerbselassie won his fourth championship gold in the 10,000 metres.

All-in-all there were 13 championship bests at Seville in 1999.

This year Edmonton has, indeed, got a lot to live up to.

Links to more World Athletics stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more World Athletics stories

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