Remote battles and cardboard fans as athletics returns in Oslo

A cardboard audience is seen in the stands as Karsten Warholm of Norway competes in Men’s 300m Hurdles during the Impossible Games 2020 in the Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway June 11, 2020. NTB Scanpix/Heiko Junge via REUTERS

OSLO (Reuters) – The Diamond League got back underway with an exhibition event in Oslo on Thursday featuring odd distances and remote competition as athletics bids to restart in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic.

With the season’s first six Diamond League events postponed due to the outbreak and many athletes still unable to travel, the Oslo meet was the first attempt to salvage something from a year that has also seen the Olympic Games in Tokyo cancelled.

The few fans in the stands at the city’s annual athletics fiesta were of the cardboard cut-out variety, while a half-dozen enterprising Norwegians in soccer shirts managed to peek into the stadium using hydraulic platforms parked by the walls.

Dubbed “The Impossible Games”, the program bore little resemblance to a normal Diamond League event as Filip Ingebrigtsen broke the Norwegian record for the 1,000 metres by three-tenths of a second, clocking a time of 2:16:48.

He later joined up with his brothers Jakob and Henrik for a five-man team event over 2,000m against a Kenyan team running in wet and windy Nairobi, with the Norwegians having the superior average of their three best runners to take the victory.

Pole-vaulter Armand Duplantis was among a Swedish contingent who drove across the border and entered the arena just before they were due to compete before leaving immediately afterwards.

Duplantis, who twice broke the world record this year before the season was disrupted, shook off some rust to win by clearing 5.86m at the third attempt, beating Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie who was jumping at home in his garden in France.

Local favourite Karsten Warholm set a 300m hurdles world best of 33.78 seconds, beating his own previous mark of 34.26.

“Even if it’s empty in the stands, knowing that many are watching at home is good motivation,” he said.

Reporting by Philip O’Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Ken Ferris