Every activity has its hallowed grounds, the deep tradition, and the historic site. Yes, like Carnegie Hall in music, Yankee Stadium in baseball and Maple Leaf Gardens in hockey.
Track and field has Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon and here in Burnaby, BC we have our crucible, it is Swangard Stadium. This has been the proving ground for Canadian track and field athletes for decades.
The traditions set by Percy Williams, Harry Jerome and Greg Joy have been transferred to Swangard Stadium where Charamine Crooks, Lynn Kanuka, David Steen, Angela Chalmers and Simon Hoogewerf have set the challenge to find the podium at the Olympic Games and World Championships.
Gary Reed and Dylan Armstrong have followed in their footsteps in the 21st century achieving the medals at this level.
The concept of Swangard Stadium was the created by a group of visionaries over 50 years ago. A group of prominent Vancouverites lead by Erwin Swangard created the Evergreen Sports Fund to facilitate “youngsters to participate in all branches of sports”. Through the Junior Amateur Sports Stadium Society, with great foresight, they set out to “raise $1,000,000 for an all- purpose lighted stadium at Central Park, almost the geographic centre of Greater Vancouver”.
A Sportsmen’s Dinner was held on September 1967 at the Hotel Vancouver, which featured Roger Bannister and John Landy, then 13 years after their Miracle Mile at the 1954, British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The net proceeds to support the Evergreen Sports Fund Junior Stadium Fund. The dinner’s head table that night included the Miracle Milers, Bannister, Landy and Canadian, Rich Ferguson who took the bronze medal plus Harry Jerome and Percy Williams. This truly historic gathering had Bob Hope as a special guest.
The stadium was opened in 1969 and was named after Erwin Swangard the force behind the fund raising. Swangard was managing editor of the Vancouver Sun. He had always been a staunch supporter of athletic endeavours in British Columbia including the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954. This September, Erwin will be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame posthumously.
In 1983 the first Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic was held at Swangard Stadium. For 31 years this stadium has hosted Olympic champions from a host of nations bringing international competition to Canadian youth just as the visionaries of 50 years ago intended.
Now completing the circle of the Swangard tradition is the fact that Erwin’s grandson, Paul Swangard will be the stadium announcer at the 2014 Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic. Paul is the Managing Director of the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and is known as the voice of Hayward Field. It seems as if Paul Swangard’s voice is heard in heard in more than one historic site on both sides of the border.
Over 300 athletes from 21 nations will compete in the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic featuring the 60th Anniversary of the Miracle Mile presented by Northern Gateway on July 10 at Swangard Stadium.
Tickets are $25 finish line and $10 general admission and are available at www.harryjerome.com