News and views from Jacky Delapierre
As director of the Athletissima meeting, Jacky Delapierre is without doubt one of the most influential figures in sport in Lausanne. A man of conviction and friendship, he has placed Lausanne on the map of international athletics.
The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad. This statement by Salvador Dali can be perfectly applied to the personality of Jacky Delapierre, “Mr Athletics” in Lausanne. When he decided to organise a meeting at the Coubertin stadium in 1977, few people believe in his project. “They treated me like a madman,” he says smoothly, with the smile of someone who knows he was right. One man did, however, believe in it: Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then president of the IOC. “He has always supported me,” insists Jacky Delapierre. On 8 July 1977, Coubertin hosted its first meeting and its contingent of Olympic medal winners. Torrential rain battered Lausanne that evening, preventing the event from being held properly. But the runners had fallen under its spell and accepted an invitation to return in August in better conditions. Athletissima took its place among meetings in grand style. At just twenty-five years of age, Jacky Delapierre’s gamble paid off.
“As a showcase for Lausanne abroad, Athletissima enjoys inestimable value in the eyes of the City”
Thirty or so stagings later and a few paces from the 2009 vintage, Jacky Delapierre has not changed his mode of operation. The world of athletics has turned professional, doping has become institutionalised, the reputations of some athletes have gone up in flames, but Jacky Delapierre stays the same. As an old-style meeting director, he prefers human contact and goes to see athletes in person to ask them to come and run in Lausanne. “Usain Bolt is coming back to Lausanne this year and I can guarantee that it has nothing to do with money. When he saw the calendar he said that he wanted to come to Lausanne despite extremely prestigious meetings before and after the 7th of July. He was discovered in 2002 and he’s already been to La Pontaise four times.” But Jacky Delapierre does not only think about Bolt. Because, whilst the stars ensure that spectators return, it still needs a whole year’s work to stage an event of this kind.
A watchword: loyalty
Having headed up the organising committee for over thirty years, this man has loyal friends. “It’s true to say that several members of the committee have been there from the outset. And those who leave do so because they are going in a different direction professionally.” As a showcase for Lausanne abroad, Athletissima enjoys inestimable value in the eyes of the City. “Which is aware of it,” he states.
A born go-getter, Jacky would happily change his last name from Delapierre [of the stone] to Delaterre [of the earth]: “I come from working-class stock and feel a deep connection with the earth. We should never forget where we come from and cultivate our ties with people.” In Lausanne, he likes to go for a drink at the Grütli and browse among the stalls of Riponne market on Saturday mornings. At the age of 56, stirred by a passion that has not faded with time, Jacky Delapierre continues to think about the future. His own of course. And then that of his town. Of course.
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