When and How Moncton Won the 2010 World IAAF Juniors Bid
This is the second of a series of articles revisiting the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championship in Moncton, NB, by Alex Cyr for Athletics New Brunswick.
(L to R) Ian Fowler, Marie-Claire Pierce, Jean-Guy Ouellette (Past AC Chair), Joanne Mortimore (AC President), and Ry Thériault – Courtesy of the Times & Transcript
Marie-Claire Pierce sat outside a locked conference room in Osaka, Japan, 12 time zones away from her Moncton desk job, desperate to find out what was happening inside. Her dream of bringing the IAAF World Junior track and field Championship to Moncton in 2008 had just been crushed. Yet, she waited on a possible consolation prize.
Pierce, a community development officer in recreation and active living, was part of a delegation of seven administrators who had travelled to Japan on behalf of Athletics Canada to present Moncton’s bid for the championships. It was early 2006 and New Brunswick’s Hub City was still without an international grade track and field stadium – the closest thing Moncton had seen from world class athletics was Mick Jagger strutting around Magnetic Hill the fall prior.
And now Pierce and her six colleagues, which included Moncton’s famed General Manager of Economic Development and Events Ian Fowler and then Moncton Mayor Lorne Mitton, were hoping to bring home the largest world championship for junior men and women Atlantic Canada had ever seen. Their competition: Bydgoszcz, Poland, a city with five times the people and a legendary athletics stadium.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said Pierce, “we were up against pros.”
Winning the bid and convincing IAAF President Lamine Diack and his 26 staff members that Moncton, a city many of them had never heard of, would be perfectly suited to welcome over 2,000 athletes, coaches and staff, was a hard sell. But the Canadian team had momentum. They had won the national bid just months prior, and had already secured funding from provincial and federal governments. Their presentation video was crowned with a shot of Mitton accepting cheques in front of a packed ballroom at Moncton’s Hotel Beauséjour from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NB Premier Bernard Lord.
“We didn’t have the stadium yet, but we showed them we had the money,” said Mitton. “We knew our bid was excellent.”
But moments after Moncton’s presentation, president Diack stood to reveal the winner of the bid. Pierce’s heart was racing.
“We were just waiting to hear the good news,” said Pierce. “And then he said Bydgoszcz.”
The verdict had been close. The first round of voting among the 26 IAAF representatives had resulted in a tie. In the second round, Moncton had lost 11-15.
“That started the rollercoaster ride,” said Pierce, “but it was far from over!”
Pierce, Mitton and the team left the conference room, giving each other a pat on the back for a job well done despite the result. But Canada’s IAAF representative Abby Hoffman stopped them before they could go too far.
“She said our bid was super strong,” said Pierce, “and that she would lobby for us at lunch and tell her coworkers that Moncton should host after Bydgoszcz, so in 2010. Meanwhile, she told us to wait outside the conference room. We couldn’t believe it.”
It was a long shot. Never in IAAF history had two championships been awarded on the same day, and in the same bidding war. But however improbable Hoffman’s proposition sounded, Mitton saw it as an ideal scenario. Still to this day, the former Mayor admits that having two extra years to prepare was an eventual boon for the event’s organization, and that getting the Stadium ready for 2008 would have been a grand challenge.
Mitton, Pierce and the rest, waited outside the room’s locked doors, powerless but hopeful that Hoffman was successfully convincing her colleagues. The team waited for two full hours, and then the doors opened. They were being invited inside.
Pierce and her colleagues sat so far back in the room that they could hardly see the President, let alone the expression on his face.
“Mr. Diack stood up,” said Pierce, “and said ‘Moncton, we would like to present you with the 2010 championship.’ We freaked, and then we celebrated.”
Elated, Canada’s delegation returned home. For Mitton, the news came as an urgent call to action. Four years sounded like a long time, but nobody knew exactly how much work it would take to prepare one of the greatest spectacles Atlantic Canada would ever see, and even less who would be the people to organize it.
“It was time to get to work,” said Mitton.
Abby Hoffman speaking in support of the Moncton Bid and with delegates – Lorne Mitton 2nd to her right
Next week, we revisit the forming of the Local Organizing Committee, and how the team of people that delivered a near-perfect championship was scouted and shaped. Alex Cyr is a journalist from Prince Edward Island who has written for The Globe and Mail, The XC, and Canadian Running Magazine. His first book Runners of the Nish, was published in 2018.