THE 24th edition of the Briggs Athletics Classic, the oldest meeting on the Australian athletics circuit, will be staged in Hobart on Saturday night and will combine with the Oceania leg of the IAAF Race Walk Challenge on Castray Esplanade the following morning to bring a swag of the country's best athletes to the island state.
The meet is named in honour of long-serving Athletics Australia and Athletics Tasmania president, the late Graeme Briggs, who was determined his home state's location should never be a bar to its full participation in athletics at all levels.
Briggs himself gained a reputation not only as a highly regarded administrator, but as one of the most innovative competition organisers around the world. His daring experiment in 1982 to program and deliver the athletics at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games especially for television was initially criticised as ignoring tradition, but almost instantaneously become the global benchmark.
Twelve years earlier his willingness to be different in the interest of athletes and his sport saw him in hot water when as Commonwealth Games athletics manager, he allowed team members, including Ron Clarke, to spend time away from the official accommodation.
But his incessant drive and ground-breaking spirit was always most beneficial in Tasmania providing a legacy of infrastructure, respect for coaches and athletes, well-educated officials and administrators and, perhaps most of all, well-run and regular competition.
Much of this work was a partnership with Noel Ruddock, who this year began his 67th year of involvement in the sport. He will be recognised before the start of Saturday's meet when the new Athletics Tasmania offices will be opened in his honour.
Ruddock first served as honorary secretary of the association in 1946, and with a single year's break in the lead-up to the Melbourne Olympics, continued in that role and as treasurer until 1997. Since then he has officiated and assisted in administration in a variety of roles including the Tasmanian Olympic Council, Commonwealth Games Association and the City to Casino.
Plenty of recognition, including life governorship of Athletics Australia and membership of the Order of Australia, has already been forthcoming for a record in volunteer service that will be hard to match and in athletics, at least, will most probably never be challenged.
Tasmania has always held its own in national leadership of many sports. It's a long-standing culture and tradition strengthened by the contributions of the likes of Noel Ruddock and Graeme Briggs.
While they would see it as only right and proper that Tasmania stages national and international circuit events such as will be present next weekend, it's no easy task to continue to do so and commitment from a new generation of organisers and administrators is essential for these events and their equivalents in other sports to continue.
The highlights of the two events will undoubtedly be the men's 5000 metres and the appearance in the 20-kilometre walk on Sunday of three-time Olympic medallist Jared Tallent.
The 5000m at Briggs has become the premier event at the distance in Australia in each year and 2013 will be no exception with a quality field including the in-form Collis Birmingham, who set a new Australian record for the half-marathon in Japan two weeks ago, rising Irishman Paul Robinson and British Olympian Nick McCormick.
The walk not only scores points for the International Challenge, but also serves as the Oceania and Australian championships and the selection trials for August's world championships in Moscow.
The Briggs Athletics Classic will be staged at the Domain Athletic Centre in Hobart on Saturday from 6 to 8pm with the IAAF Race Walk Challenge on the Hobart Waterfront near Salamanca Place from 7.15am on Sunday.