The athletics world reacts following news of Hansen’s death at the age of 74

Tributes have been paid to European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen, who has died aged 74.

The hugely popular figure had an immense impact on the sport, its athletes and the whole community and many messages and memories were shared following news of his death in Oslo on Saturday.

Well wishes had previously been sent to Hansen following his stroke in March, which he was unable to recover from.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Svein Arne today,” said European Athletics interim president, Dobromir Karamarinov. “He was a great leader, a visionary for our sport and a charismatic personality within the athletics family.

“He was much loved by all those who knew him well and above all he was a friend of the athletes. We have lost a great man. All my thoughts and wishes go to his family at this difficult time.”

European Athletics CEO Christian Milz added: “The world of athletics and the European Athletics family has today lost an inspirational leader and a good friend.

“I had the honour and privilege to work with Svein Arne for a number of years prior to 2015, and since then as our president. He was always trying his best to promote the sport, and always with a smile on his face. We will all miss him. I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Hansen became president of European Athletics in 2015 and was re-elected unopposed last year for another four-year term.

President of the Norwegian Athletics Federation from 2003, Hansen was also the meeting director of Oslo’s Bislett Games from 1985-2009, helping to make it the great success it is today, and was a European Athletics vice president from 2007-2011.

His sports administration career had begun in 1968, when he became a member of the Norwegian Athletics Federation Junior Committee, a role he held until 1972. Outside of athletics, another of Hansen’s passions was stamp collecting and he also worked as a stamp dealer.

He had been a World Athletics Council Member since 2015 and among those to pay tribute was Seb Coe, president of the global governing body and a long-time colleague and friend of Hansen, who said: “Today I have lost one of my closest friends.

“We have known each other for 43 years. Sven gave me my first big international break in athletics at the Bislett Games in Oslo and provided me with the platform for two of my three world records in 41 days back in 1979. He was in the vanguard of globalising our sport and, along with Andreas Brugger in Zurich and Wilfred Meert in Brussels, was one of the three game-changers in our sport.

“He brought a professionalism to our one-day meetings that is still the template today and crucially he had the political savvy to be able to do that and navigate the sport from an amateur era into becoming an open sport and then a professional sport when there was a real risk that fault lines between East and West Europe could have split the sport apart.

“But his loss today, alongside his much loved family, will be felt most acutely by generations of athletes whose aspirations he helped fulfil. Our deepest sympathies go to his family and the European Athletics family who today lost their hugely popular and effective president.”

Cherry Alexander, who last year became European Athletics vice-president, wrote: “So sad to hear of the passing of my big boss, the president of European Athletics, Svein Arne Hansen. He paved the way for me to be only the second female vice president of EA and was always so supportive and full of encouragement and advice. I and the sport will miss him so much.”

Also paying tribute was British distance running great Brendan Foster, who said: “In every sense he was a true friend and a giant of athletics and will be sadly missed.”

While 1984 Olympic 3000m silver medallist Wendy Sly said: “I am so sad today to lose another friend from the sport of athletics.

“In the early ’80s Svein Arne Hansen always had time to support my running at a time when women’s middle distance running wasn’t always supported. As a result, I got the chance to race the great Grete Waitz at the Bislett Games, breaking British records and gaining confidence in the process. As president of European Athletics he enhanced the profile of the European Cross Country Championships as well as the track championships and started the ‘I Run Clean’ initiative.

“So many memories, so many ‘thank you’s. We will miss you my friend.”

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