“I am very happy to be here today in one of the world’s most famous places: Times Square, New York,” said IAAF President Lamine Diack in remarks that opened the festivities as the lights of Broadway pulsated behind him. “It is a privilege to be part of this youthful and inspiring project … What could be more symbolic than 100 children, 100 meters, 100 years?”
Most of the 100 children are part of New York Road Runners youth programs, ages 10-14. They were joined by 7- and 8-year-old finalists in the adidas Fastest Kids sprint that will take place at Saturday’s adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium.
Before the relay began, the children gathered around Diack to surprise him with a serenade of “Happy Birthday.” He will turn 79 on Thursday.
Led by Tirunesh Dibaba, the double 2008 Olympic gold medalist, the young runners divided into teams for a relay along a section of Broadway, its blue pavement—usually a pedestrian zone—lined off into an eight-lane sprint runway. With Diack serving as official starter, the exhibition began shortly after 1 p.m. as passersby took a break from their busy lunch hour to watch.
President Diack smiled as the children ran. “This is a very special moment for me,” he said afterward, “because the future of our sport is these kids.”
In his remarks, Diack also announced the names of the three latest U.S. athletes set for induction in the IAAF Hall of Fame: Mildred “Babe” Didriksen, Michael Johnson and Dan O’Brien.
O’Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon gold medalist who was present to emcee the races, said he was honored. “I feel absolutely blessed,” he said.
Earlier, he had congratulated the young runners on their good fortune.
“This is something you’ll be able to tell your friends about, that you ran in Times Square,” he said. “I never got to run in Times Square.”