Can Amsterdam jam to the tune of athletics?

Amsterdam is famous for many things and athletics is not one of them. Can Holland’s top DJs help change all that? SPIKES meets the man behind a new athletics event that’s putting the track in track and field. P.S. There’s a DJ set with your name on it, Usain.

Deck-athlon: Can tunes tempt Bolt to Amsterdam?

Most of the world’s top European cities boast a major annual one-day athletics meeting. Think Paris, London, Berlin, Brussels, Rome or Stockholm: think athletics.

Yet conspicuous by its absence is Holland’s largest city of Amsterdam. That is, until now.

After winning the bid to stage the 2016 European Championships, the “Venice of the North” is looking to further its appeal by staging a new one-dayer: the Amsterdam Flame Games on August 31.

“We have a great historical venue here, the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 1928 Olympic Games. It is regularly used for our national championships but we have had no major international meeting,” says Enno Tjepkema, a former multi-eventer and owner of SportInspiration, the company behind the new competition.

USA’s 16-year-old sprinter Elizabeth Robinson (879) wins the first ever women’s Olympic track event, the 100m at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.

“After the city won the rights to stage the 2016 European Championships there was a real push from government to run an annual athletics event, and that’s how I got involved.”

Tjepkema, who once held the world record for the javelin (75.84m) in a decathlon, sees exciting potential for the event but recognises that for an athletics event to flourish in the modern world, it needs to embrace something new.

“Athletics is not as big in Holland as in the UK or Germany, where they have had lots of star names. In Holland we are battling with sports like soccer and speed skating, which are huge here.”

“Amsterdam is a great cultural city, so we will try bring that into the athletics meeting. In Holland we have some of the world’s great DJs. I would say four or five of the top ten DJ’s in the world are from Holland, like Armin van Buuren, Afro Jack and Sander van Doorn. We will bring DJ’s into the meeting and music will form an important part.”

The premise of the meeting would be to build a party atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium before the event, with DJs forming the core of the pre-event entertainment along with fireworks and pyrotechnics.

“Another fact that maybe people do not know is the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics was the first to re-introduce the torch that was used in the ancient Olympic Games,” says Tjepkema. “We will reflect that not only in the name of the meeting but also as part of the entertainment.”

The ambitions for the inaugural Amsterdam Flame Games are bold, yet in athletics terms, realistic. Backed by the experienced Global Sports Communications, organisers will target the leading Dutch athletes such as Churandy Martina, European Junior heptathlon gold medallist Dafne Schippers, and two-time world throws medallist Rutger Smith alongside an overseas cast.


Pretty fly for a Dutch guy: Churandy Martina wins 200m European gold

It is not yet chasing IAAF World Challenge status, the official second tier of one-day athletics meetings. This is “three to four years away,” says Tjepkema.

He admitted the 2013 meeting does not have the financial clout to attract the likes of DJ-playing sprint superstar Usain Bolt. Unless…

“We might be able to get him to run if he fancies coming along and getting a few tips from some of the top DJs,” says Tjepkema. “We’d welcome him.”