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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Forget Helsinki
By Mike Burnett

The World Athletics Championships in Helsinki reached their conclusion on Sunday, but Finland has one more major event to deliver this year.

Just half an hour's drive to the west, the world's elite disabled athletes are set to compete at the IPC Athletics Open European Championships in Espoo.

The six-day tournament gets under way on Monday, 22 August, and will feature over 750 athletes from 48 countries.

The 159 competition events will take place at Espoo's Leppävaara stadium.

BBC Sport gives the lowdown on the championships and their host Finland.

ESPOO RATHER THAN HELSINKI

Helsinki and Espoo may be separate cities but are so close that the World Athletics Championships and European Championships share the same Athletes Village in Espoo's Otaniemi.

But while Helsinki is more well-known to the average man in the street, Finland's second-largest city is fast making a name for itself as the home of technology.

Espoo's biggest employer is telecommunications giant Nokia, and the city's favourite son is Jorma Ollila, the man who transformed the company's fortunes when be became chairman in 1992.

PARALYMPIC CREDENTIALS

Finland has a healthy Paralympic reputation and attitude to coverage.

The Finns won 10 medals at the Paralympics in 2000 and eight at Athens 2004, while the general public back home were able to catch up with the action at last year's Game in several hour-long highlights programmes on TV.

Finnish wheelchair racer Leo Pekka-Tahti
Leo Pekka-Tahti enjoyed success in Athens

Six of the medals in 2004 were in athletics - three gold, one silver and two bronze.

And, like their able-bodied counterparts, the Paralympians certainly enjoy their throwing events - with a gold in the women's F42-46 javelin, a silver in the men's F54 javelin and bronzes in the men's F54 shot and women's F54 javelin.

But the country's most famous disabled athlete is wheelchair racer Leo Pekka-Tahti, who shone in Greece with victories in the T54 100 and 200m.

THE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Unsurprisingly, hosting both the World Championships and the European Championships in quick succession has been a major undertaking in Finland and has led to the nation's largest-ever security operation.

Both events were planned by the same joint-organising committee - a factor designed to benefit the European Championships.

"One of the aims of these Games is to help disabled become part of athletics on the wider scale in addition to promoting awareness and appreciation of Paralympic sports," said IPC Athletics Open European Athletics Championships coordinator Katarina Jarvelainen.

BRITISH HOPES

Great Britain and Northern Ireland head to the European Championships with high hopes for their 35-strong squad, which includes the nation's most successful Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

Tanni Grey Thompson
Grey Thompson will take part in four events in Finland

The 11-time gold medallist is set to take part in the T53 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

The 36-year-old wheelchair racer is also joined by fellow Athens Paralympic champions - Danny Crates (T46 800m), Ken Churchill (F37 javelin), Danny Greaves (F44 discus) and Stephen Miller (F32 club).

"Our belief is that everyone selected - young athletes and experienced Paralympians both - can be competitive in the contest for European medals," said GB head coach Brian Scobie.

SEE ALSO
Grey Thompson heads GB Euro squad
22 Jun 05 |  Disability Sport


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