Multi-sport European Championships blazing a thrilling trail ahead of Munich 2022

Bristow was speaking at Wednesday's opening press conference in MunichBristow was speaking at Wednesday's opening press conference in Munich
Bristow was speaking at Wednesday's opening press conference in Munich

It took almost two decades to create a multi-sport European Championships.

For 17 long years, experienced sports administrator Paul Bristow slogged away alongside Marc Joerg – his trusted strategic lieutenant – encountering obstacle after obstacle threatening to derail their long-term dream.

Individual sporting calendars, broadcasting rights and a widespread resistance to the status quo were just three of the sticking points as Bristow and Joerg trawled all over the continent to pitch their left-field case.

But 21 years since the idea was first touted, and after battling through a barrage of barriers, archaic attitudes and never-ending logistical challenges, the concept is firmly alive and kicking and ready to catapult Munich on to the summer sporting map.

Glasgow and Berlin were joint hosts of the inaugural instalment of the competition four years ago, the brainchild of Bristow and Joerg since they first hit it off after the turn of the century.


Bristow, co-founder and managing director of the championships, boasts over 30 years of international sports marketing expertise and has spearheaded the strategy for 20 Champions League campaigns, three FIFA World Cups and two Olympic Games.

And it was all the way back in 2001 when he decided to shake up the established sporting order with his innovative concept of a multi-sport event.

In theory, it makes perfect sense.

Combine the individual European Championships of some of the continent’s favourite sports into one 11-day bonanza organised in one centralised place.

It took 17 years for Bristow and Joerg’s proposal to come to fruition but after the success of Glasgow and Berlin 2018, it’s now Munich’s turn to enjoy its place in the multi-sport sun.

The city’s Olympic Park was deliberately selected as this year’s host to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the storied 1972 Games, with many of the same venues playing a similarly central role this summer.

The park’s iconic Olympic Stadium – the former home of Bayern Munich – will host the hotly-anticipated athletics event, which gets underway on Monday.

And Bristow said: “The concept is very simple, but the execution is very difficult.

“What we have tried to do is create an event where athletes and their sports have a profile and they become more recognised.

“There seemed to be an opportunity, and it was our vision, to bring existing events together at the same time, same place, under an umbrella brand, and significantly raise the profile of them.

“Aggregation really works – we wanted to create a must-watch, must attend event that elevates the champions of Europe.

“It hasn’t been easy, so it has taken a lot of patience and tenacity to get to this point.

“Hopefully the halo effect will be that the athletes become more recognised for their achievements – and we have the perfect stage here to do that.

“I can’t think of any venue in the world more iconic to host a multi-sport event than where we are now.

“We want to make sure this is an event that is still around in a 100 years’ time, and will continue to grow on each successive edition.

“I was a young lad in 1972 and the Olympics inspired me and my love of sport. I now hope this summer will now inspire the next generation.”

The benefits of staging a multi-sport event are manifold, according to Bristow.

The ‘aggregation’ of multiple lower-profile sports, most notably sport climbing, beach volleyball, table tennis and canoe sprint for this summer’s showpiece, is capable of elevating and amplifying the champions of Europe and appealing to a significantly broader geographic of fans across the continent.

A casual viewer would be much more likely to switch on to watch wall-to-wall coverage of an exciting multi-sport event – much like the Olympic, Paralympic or Commonwealth Games – than an individual sport climbing or canoe sprint European Championship, meaning coverage of all these sports in one, centralised place – in Britain’s case, the BBC – will revolutionise visibility and access.

And there’s perhaps no better example than sport climbing, which kicks off on Thursday and will see 12 British athletes compete.

Wolfgang Wabel, vice president of the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s executive board, has seen the game change and is relishing the prospect of his sport taking centre stage.

“It’s a sign, and shows us, that we are growing and are being recognised as a sport,” he said.

“We really like the concept of the multi-sport European Championships – it’s a lot bigger than our usual championships so for us, and the athletes, they’re all really pleased to be here and it will increase the profile and outcome.”

Annamarie Phelps, chair of European Rowing, added: “It makes a big difference to the sort of audiences we get.

“We get people crossing over from difference audiences to watch rowing, and it really does give our athletes a unique stage to shine on.”

Smaller sports aside, there’s certainly no shortage of big name British interest in Munich.

The Olympic Stadium will function as the unequivocal epicentre of the Championships and play host to the highest-profile event in athletics, which gets underway on Monday.

Commonwealth 1,500m queen Laura Muir, world champion Jake Wightman – over the same distance – Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita will all compete in their track events while in the velodrome, Jack Carlin spearheads Britain’s team sprint tilt on Thursday.

Joe Fraser is the household name in the British Gymnastics team – alongside hugely exciting Jake Jarman, 20, who won a stunning four gold medals in Birmingham – while Olympic champion Charlotte Worthington will unveil her gravity-defying flicks and tricks in the BMX freestyle event.

Middle distance star Keely Hodgkinson, 400m ace Matt Hudson-Smith and pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw will also form part of a star-studded, record-breaking initial 115-strong British Athletics team.

And speaking of records, expect several to tumble over the next 11 days.

The competition in a sweltering, salubrious Munich looks set to be red-hot, with a whopping 177 gold medals awarded throughout the 11 days.

It took almost two decades to get here but it’s without doubt worth the wait.

The multi-sport European Championships Munich 2022, featuring Athletics, Beach Volleyball, Canoe Sprint, Cycling, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Rowing, Sport Climbing, takes place 11th-21st August on the 50th anniversary of the Olympics Games in the Germany city. Follow online at