We went wild when watching the shot put in a downtown Stockholm square back in July. Yesterday in Zurich, the street meet bar was raised to a whole new level. Pole vault in a train station really is a thing, and it looks like this.
Public displays of athleticism
Or PDA, for short, if you prefer. Zurich Main Station has played host to athletics in the past, but only ever the shot put. With Stockholm calling dibs on the street shot earlier this summer, the chaps behind the Weltklasse opted for pole vault. In a building that dates back to 1847 designed for anything BUT sporting events, it was an impressive feat. The result of this inspired vision was surreal, stirring and totally unique.
According to the meet organisers, Zurich Main Station is the busiest place in the whole of Switzerland. That creates practical problems in setting up a pole vault area; it also means maximum exposure for track and field’s most dizzying event.
The hall was the perfect size to fit the runway, pit and spectators. Anyone who happened to be catching a train yesterday evening won’t have failed to notice the action, and as the contest wore on, more and more people gathered for a glimpse. By the end, with the crowd thronging, it was hard to argue that this wasn't the busiest place in Switzerland.
No vault of your own
The people of Zurich love athletics. Tickets for the Letzigrund Stadium, where the Diamond League meet takes place, sold out in a shot; the station set-up was the perfect way to whet the appetites of the passionate Swiss misters and misses ahead of the main event.
Accidental fans stood alongside track nuts who had missed out on tickets for the main meet. It made for a great atmosphere, with some fascinated by the spectacle and others delighted to get a taste of action.
“I couldn’t get a ticket for the Letzigrund,” Zurich local Annelies said. “I was going to get a train back from work tonight, so this is perfect for me to see some athletics. I wouldn’t have had the chance otherwise.”
“I’ve never seen a street vault like this. It’s awesome!” Morris told us. “It’s really cool for people to have a first hand experience of the vault. I’m definitely jealous!”
Though the event had an exhibition feel, the standard on display was world-class. The field featured four medallists from Beijing, including newly-crowned world champion Shawn Barber.
The 21-year-old won the day with a Canadian indoor record 5.92m clearance. The University of Akron student – who this week announced his decision to go pro – clearly responded to the intensity of the setting.
“I think us as vaulters really love that atmosphere when the crowd are so close and are part of the vault,” he said. “I think it makes it more enjoyable for them and more enjoyable for us. As athletes we feed off of excitement and energy.”
Half cheerleader, half pole vaulter, half YouTube sensation, half cow. That’s a lot of halves, enough to keep a shrink entertained for an entire career, and certainly enough to get the crowd pumped.
Effervescent Zurich mascot Cooly put his vaulting hat on during the warm-up and improved his personal best to 3.10m, which surely has to be some sort of world record. He then spent the next two hours dancing with glee between athletes’ vaults. It is not a spectacle one sees every day. WE WANT MORE.
Photos: Weltklasse Zürich, Urs Jaudas