It is a great celebration for the sport of running in Vienna and Austria: The Prater Hauptallee has been acknowledged by World Athletics Heritage as a global "landmark". Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig received the "World Athletics Heritage Plaque" at a ceremony in Vienna's City Hall.
Austria's most popular place for running was recognized as "Home to runners and running events since 1822". This is because the first organised race on the Prater Hauptallee, the "Vienna Runners' Festival", took place on 1 May 200 years ago. Millions of kilometres and billions of steps have been run on the 4.3-kilometre straight between Praterstern and Lusthaus since then. By joggers, in organised training sessions, during the Vienna City Marathon, the Austrian Women's Run and many other smaller and larger events right up to the INEOS 1:59 Challenge with Eliud Kipchoge.
The World Athletics Heritage Plaque is something rare. Previous recipients include sporting greats such as Jesse Owens, Emil Zatopek and Grete Waitz, as well as outstanding venues and events such as the Letzigrund Meeting in Zurich and the ISTAF in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. A panel of experts from World Athletics awards the plaque for an "outstanding contribution to the global history and development of world athletics". The idea and impetus for the "World Heritage Hauptallee" to be recognized had come from the Vienna City Marathon.
"The City of Vienna is proud to be the recipient of the World Athletics Heritage Plaque for the Prater Hauptallee. This international award makes us aware of what a globally outstanding place the Prater Hauptallee is for running and running events. Sports history up to the present are linked here in a large, urban green space. I thank the Vienna City Marathon for its initiative and hope that the World Athletics Heritage designation for the Hauptallee will motivate even more people than before to enjoy running and being active here", said Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig, who received the plaque from World Athletics Heritage member, historian and athletics expert Olaf Brockmann.
"World Athletics is delighted to celebrate 200 years of Vienna’s Prater Hauptallee with the award of the World Athletics Heritage Plaque in the category of landmarks. We are proud to recognize the Prater Hauptallee’s outstanding contribution to the history and development of running," said Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, in a video message.
Mayor Ludwig passed the plaque on to Wolfgang Konrad, the Race Director of the Vienna City Marathon. The World Athletics Heritage Plaque will be presented on 19 April in the Prater Hauptallee and then permanently displayed there.
"The World Athletics Heritage Plaque is a great recognition and enhancement for Austrian running. It is a motivation and a gift for the whole running community, for all those who run and organise competitions in the Hauptallee," says Wolfgang Konrad. Five days before the Vienna City Marathon the plaque will get its permanent place directly in the avenue. The plaque will also be a new highlight on the course for the runners of Austria's biggest sports event. Wolfgang Konrad said: "There are more than 30,000 registrations for the upcoming Vienna City Marathon, including many guests from all over Austria and a total of 125 countries. For the second time, the VCM is the biggest tourist event in Vienna since the beginning of the pandemic. The World Athletics Heritage designation also strengthens our position internationally because Vienna's profile as a running city is rising overall."
Ernst Woller, First President of the Vienna Parliament, emphasises the extraordinary position of Vienna as a multiple World Heritage City: "We are very pleased that Vienna has been included in the World Athletics Heritage in addition to the UNESCO World Heritage. It is my aim to spread and raise awareness of this outstanding history. We are accompanying the World Heritage plaque and the 200th anniversary with an open-air exhibition in the Prater Hauptallee and a high-quality print magazine."
From 19 April, a World Heritage exhibition will present the running history of the Prater Hauptallee and Vienna as a running city. Nine display cases will be put up along the Prater Hauptallee. Additionally Echo Medienhaus Managing Director Christian Pöttler presented a brand new magazine with over 100 pages. Exciting stories and pictures tell the stories and highlights from 200 years of running in Vienna.
About the World Athletics Heritage Plaque
The World Athletics Heritage Plaque is 23 centimetres in diameter and was handmade in the Bertoni workshop in Milan, also the manufacturer of the FIFA World Cup. World Athletics Heritage has so far only awarded 79 of these plaques according to strict criteria. As the "Home to runners and running events since 1822", the Hauptallee met the conditions of making an "outstanding contribution to the history and development of world athletics". Vienna received the plaque in the category "Landmarks" - for a very special venue in the history of athletics.
Significant athletes, coaches, sports venues, careers and cultural achievements can be honoured. Austrian bearers of the plaque next to the Prater Hauptallee are the Götzis combined events meeting, where among other achievements the first decathlon over 9,000 points was celebrated, and coaching legend Franz Stampfl, who guided Roger Bannister to the first mile under four minutes.
Time Travel Hauptallee 1822-2022
1822-1847: Runners' Festival on 1 May
1919-1966: Relay race "Quer durch Wien" (Right across Vienna) with up to 1,500 participants and the final part on Hauptallee and the finish at WAC-Platz. Held intermittently until 1966. Other historical competitions: "Praterpreis" 1921-1925, "Rund um das Heustadlwasser" 1933-1943, 25 km run Spenadlwiese, Marathon Championships.
From 1971: National Fit Run and Fit Walk on 26 October
From 1977: Numerous Prater runs organised by three-time Olympic marathon participant "Dolfi" Gruber
1978: 10,000 m world record by Henry Rono in 27:22.47 minutes at today's "Leichtathletik Zentrum" within sight of the Hauptallee
1984: First Vienna Spring Marathon, today Vienna City Marathon. Around a quarter of the marathon route leads through the Prater.
1992: The Austrian Women's Run, founded in 1988, takes place in the Prater for the first time.
2001: Start for the Wien Energie Business Run, the big running event for corporate teams.
2019: Eliud Kipchoge runs marathon under two hours.
2020: Despite the pandemic, numerous small running events are staged in the Prater Hauptallee.
2021: Comeback of major events: Vienna City Marathon, Austrian Women's Run and Wien Energie Business Run.
2022: World Athletics Heritage Plaque for the Prater Hauptallee
Spotlight Prater Hauptallee
4.3 kilometres from Praterstern to Lusthaus
3-metre elevation: watch out, don't trip!
Created in 1537/38 by tree cutting in the floodplain forest as access to the imperial hunting grounds.
Formerly also called the "Long Corridor" (Langer Gang)
Josef II opened the entrance to all social classes in 1766. Coffee houses and amusements established.
Traffic-free since 1964
Sun and wind sheltered by the avenue trees and the surrounding forest
Illuminated at night
Accessible around the clock every day
Prater Nature Oasis
Former floodplain of the Danube
First documented as "Pratum" in 1162
513 hectares of protected landscape
One of the largest urban parks in the world
2,500 chestnut trees in the Hauptallee in four to six rows
15 large meadows
7 standing waters - remnants of former arms of the Danube
Habitat for ducks, beavers, kingfishers, dragonflies, wild bees, raccoons, etc.
Prater Battle 1848 between National Guard and workers
World Expo 1873 in the Prater
Workers' Olympics 1931
Forced walk of Jews across the Hauptallee and into internment in the stadium 1939
Destruction by bombings of Wurstelprater 1945