That statement is of course somewhat of an exaggeration, but there is also a grain of truth to be found in it: considering DN Galan is has begun it's fourth decade.
The contemporary track and field meet - even the concept of touring international track stars - was practically born in the Nordic countries. The Bislett Games in Oslo, the World Games of Helsinki - and of course, DN Galan in Stockholm were the forerunners of the present circuit.
In the early days of track and field meets, the Nordic countries (particularly Sweden) were the only hosts to offer numerous and attractive competitions to touring American, Jamaican, New Zealand and other international athletes. Other famous track and field meets held today, e.g. Brussels, Rome, Hengelo, and Monte Carlo, didn't begin to make a mark on the map of track and field until well into the 1980s.
The first DN Galan took place at Stockholm Olympic Stadium on the 4-5 of July 1967! Although the name of the meet was new at the time, DN Galan was actually a development of the traditional "July Games", a competition that already had a history reaching back several decades.
Ron Clarke, who was destined to become the biggest foreign favorite of all time at the Olympic Stadium, was the main attraction at the first DN Galan. He was the existing world record holder at 5000m with the time of 13.16.6, set in the same arena and on the same day a year earlier. In 1967, Clarke did not manage to better his own record, but his time of 13.18.8 was the second fastest ever recorded! It would take another 5 years until the world would see the 13.20 barrier broken for a third time!
Spectators at the sold out arena for the first DN Galan did not go home disappointed. Judy Pollock, Ron Clark's countrywoman, set a new world record that night when she was clocked at 2.02.0 over 880 yards. From a national prespective, Ulf Högberg was considered the star of the evening when he became the second Swede in history to breake the 4-minute mile!
Since then, DN Galan has produced a steady flow of all kinds of records - including 11 more world records! The meet has been able to retain it's position as one of the major events on the international track and field circuit, because of it's success in attracting world-class athletes and coveted media attention.
The "memoairs" of DN Galan would become a volumnious publication if one should give full justice to all the great moments in the history of DN Galan. Here are just a few selected highlights:
The greatest Swedish moments occured in 1975 and in 1987. On both occasions, the evening was warm and summery and the stadium was filled to capacity with an enthusiastic and expectant crowd. In 1975, Anders G¹rderud set a world record in steeplechase. In 1987, Patrik Sjùberg set a world record in high jump. The crowds went wild! It couldn't get any better than this!
How seldom logic, planning and expactations works in connection with records was effectfully illustrated in 1972. It was the first time DN Galan was held on an all-weather track surface. Ironically, world records were set in the discus by Ricky Bruch and in the javelin by Janis Lusis, but not in any running events, as one might have anticipated!
Possibly the most surprising world record at DN Galan is Peter Koech's steeplechase record in 1989. For more than half a century it had been considered an absolute necessity to have excessive planning and excellent pace makers in order to set world records in middle- and long-distance races. Neither was the case for Koech, but an intensive battle between him and his countryman Patrick Sang ensued over the last few laps, made it possible for Koech to surprise himself as well as the spectators with a new world record!
Two years later, a sensation was caused in the steeplechase by an "unknown" late entrant, Moses Kiptanui. Kiptanui lowered his personal best by almost half a minute and missed Koech's world record with only 2 seconds! Even though the world record was not broken, that race is part of track and field history, because it was there and then the world's best steeplechaser of all time, without any warning, became number one!
Middle- and long-distance have traditionally been major events at DN Galan, but 1994 was the year of the sprints. New stadium records in 100m and 200m for both men and women. The star of the night was Dennis Mitchell, the first person to run a sub 10-seconds 100 meter race on Swedish soil!
The best DN Galan ever? One strong candidate is 1989, but not only because of the world record in the steeplechase. No, it was because "all" of the superstars were in action at the same evening. One needed 10 pairs of eyes not to miss anything: Carl Lewis in one corner, Sergei Bubka in another, Javier Sotomayor in the third, Said Aouita in the fourth, Merlene Ottey in the fifth...
Perhaps 1981 was the best ever? Sebastian Coe made his only appearance at DN Galan (an incredible 1500m race), Ben Pluknett threw 72m in the discus, the Swede Erik Josjù suprisingly beat the best Americans in the 400m, and Willie Banks "invented" the handclap during the triple jump - all events that have gone down in track and field history!
But who could forget 1997? In overall results, atmosphere and the flow of one exciting event after another, spiced with sound effects and perfectly choreographed music; surely, this must be the best DN Galan of all time! It was a magical evening when Wilson Kipketer equalled Sebastian Coe's world record in the 800m. All in all 8 stadium records and 8 world best performances where achieved. Track and field at it's very best!
How it all began
Borg is a Swedish name that millions of people all over the world are familiar with. First there was Arne, the legendary swimmer and then came Björn, who suscribed to the titles at Paris and Wimbledon for many years. In between these two, there was Sixten.
Sixten Borg is the founder of DN Galan and thus is a friend of thousands of athletes who since 1967 have had the opportunity to compete at Stockholm Olympic Stadium.
Sixten Borg recalls the origins of the meet:
"The idea came in 1965, when we wanted to arrange a "Peter Snell Gala". He was hot after his two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. I managed to persuade the newspaper Dagens Nyheter to sponsor the event! Unfortunatly Peter decided to call it quits only two weeks before our meeting."
Kipchoge Keino was to be Snell's replacement, but the whole Kenyan group suffered food poisoning at the African Championships. Help came from Oslo. They were supposed to have Gaston Roelants, the Belgian, but the meet was cancelled and Roelants accepted an invitation to run in Stockholm instead.
"He was very popular in Sweden, says Sixten. Partly due to the fact that he worked as a department store detective, for which he became famous."
The following year, Sixten tried again. He was hospitalized in the fall and had time to think about the meet, which actually was a continuation of the "July Games". Sixten did not dare to ask the newspaper for more support after the failure the year before, but staged a meet anyway. This time Ron Clark made the meet a success and set a new world record in 5000m with 13.16.6.
This made it possible for Sixten to return to the newspaper. Dagens Nyheter accepted the sponsorship. Sixten and the group around him consisting of Bertil Thomsson, Heinz Lueger, Kurt Gibson, and Sven Frohm organised the first DN Galan on July 4 and 5 1967.
"As long as we had amateurism it was possible to stage the meet in two days, insists Sixten. "We thought it would be cheaper to have athletes participate in more than one event and that accommodations would not be so expensive. It turned out to be the opposite, so in years later we switched to one day only."
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter has given the meet it's support ever since.