Track and field event draws Olympic stars to Berlin

Olympic champions Yelena Isinbayeva and Kenenisa Bekele are set to join in the hunt for the Golden League's one-million-dollar jackpot when the series starts at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

Track and field event draws Olympic stars to Berlin
Photo: DPA

Beijing sprint king Usain Bolt will be absent, but Croatia’s world high-jump champion Blanka Vlasic, plus double Olympic javelin gold medallist Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, will also be competing in Berlin.

The challenge for the athletes who start any of the 10 jackpot events is to win at all six Golden League meetings to claim a share of the pot.

Kenyan middle-distance runner Pamelo Jelimo was the outright millionaire winner last season, but American one-lap specialist Sanya Richards is bidding to become only the second woman to capture a piece of the Jackpot for a third time.

Richards, a 4×400 relay gold medallist from Beijing, will have Russian rivals Yuliya Gushchina and Tatyana Firova, plus Amantle Montsho of Botswana to push her in the 400m.

Olympic 100m gold medallist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica will lead the field in Berlin, while in the men’s event 22-year-old Daniel Bailey of Antigua has dropped below the 10 second mark this season.

In the men’s full-lap event three Beijing Olympic finalists will reunite in Chris Brown of the Bahamas, Leslie Djhone of France, and Swede Johan Wissman while Olympic champion LeShawn Merritt will stay away from Berlin.

Ethiopia’s world record holder Bekele will race in the 5000m, but the double Olympic champion arrives in the German capital as an unknown quantity in 2009 having been sidelined for the indoor season with an injury thigh.

But his credentials certainly speak for themselves with 14 world titles and three Olympic golds, and he has been the fastest in the world over 5000m every year since 2004.

Bekele brings an 11-race win streak in the event to Berlin, one which dates back to July of 2006, but will be under pressure from the Kenyans in a formidable field.

Edwin Soi will lead the Kenyan challenge and the Olympic bronze medallist is in good form, while Moses Masai, the fourth place finisher in the Olympic 10,000m, returns to Berlin to defend his ISTAF title.

A year ago he clocked his career best 12 mins 50.55 seconds on the Olympic Stadium track which will host the world championships in August.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.