About The EventAbout Achilles International Track And Field Society
Developing track and field has been the goal of the Achilles International Track and Field Society since a group of international athletes, coaches and athletics enthusiasts formed the organization back in 1963. At the time, the founders felt Canada's track and field athletes needed an elite competition within the country to help them prepare for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Times have not changed. The expense of travel and family or education commitments still make it difficult for many Canadian athletes to get to events suitable to meet their training, development and performance goals. Some of the events prove too far afield - in Europe, the Southern Hemisphere or Asia. Thanks to Achilles, the Vancouver area has played host to many international indoor and outdoor meets, giving many Canadian competitors important opportunities to compete against top international athletes on Canadian soil, in front of supportive and enthusiastic home fans.
The inaugural Achilles meet, the Preview to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was held at Vancouver's Empire Stadium shortly before competitors were to leave for the Games in Japan. The idea was popular, the event compelling, but Mother Nature proved not be a track and field fan and served up a cold, soggy, September day that kept many fans away.
"We did one very bright thing - we took out a rain insurance policy," recalls longtime track and field coach Gerry Swan, one of the Achilles Society founders. "And was that ever lucky as on the day of the meet we had a very heavy rainstorm. The insurance company placed a cup in the middle of the field and we chose a two-hour period in which rain would be gathered in the cup. If the cup was full in two hours we collected our insurance. The cup filled in less than an hour so financially we were saved."
But about 7,000 hardy fans showed up to support the meet and they were treated to some stirring performances in return. Despite the miserable conditions North Vancouver's Harry Jerome displayed the outstanding speed that would, in three weeks time, earn him an Olympic bronze medal, winning the men's 100 metres in 10.2 seconds. He earned a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd, and remains an icon of Canadian track and field. The current annual Achilles outdoor meet has, since 1984, been named and held in memory of Harry Jerome..
Canadian runner Bruce Kidd also turned in an impressive performance in the men's 5,000 metres at the inaugural meet while Vancouver's Irene Piotrowski blazed to victory in the women's 100 metres.
A year later, after what meet director Swan termed "moderate pre-meet ticket sales," an enormous walk-up crowd of about 14,000 arrived to witness the second annual Achilles meet. The rush of spectators forced delay of the meet as ticket sellers were not prepared for such a large influx of people. Three-time Olympic gold medallist Peter Snell of New Zealand was the marquee entry in the men's mile but the venerable Kiwi fell ill earlier in the day. He kept his commitment to compete but finished last in the race, won by an American. Snell accessed the public address system and apologized to the crowd for his performance. The spectators, who had enjoyed the night's entertainment and recognized the integrity of Snell, responded with a standing ovation.
Achilles went on to hold several more international indoor and outdoor meets until the group took a hiatus in the 1970s. But they re-emerged in the early 1980s and by 1983 international track and field was again being presented by Achilles with the Labatts International Track Classic Pre-Olympic meet, featuring Irish star Eamonn Coghlan, held at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium.
Since then world and Olympic champions, world record holders, Canadian stars and young hopefuls have thrilled spectators, achieved personal bests and, thanks to the vision and dedication of the Achilles International Track and Field Society, continued in their quest to become Faster, Higher and Stronger.