By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - The sport of athletics will witness a 20 percent rise in television viewing figures at the first multi-sports European Championships in 2018, the continent's athletics chief Svein Arne Hansen said on Friday.
The new European Championships will combine the separate continental championships of seven sports into one event, hoping to become the top multi-sports competition in Europe ahead of the struggling European Games.
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"We have a very clear purpose. To get more people interested in sports. For athletics we expect 20 percent more viewers (than at the traditional single-sport European athletics championships)," Hansen, European athletics association president, told Reuters in an interview.
"We also expect better ticket sales in the stadium."
Federations are shareholders and co-organizers of the event, rather than invited participants as in the Olympic Games which are controlled by the International Olympic Committee.
That means pooling resources among the seven sports, keeping costs low and aiming for a bigger share of potential profits for the federations.
Glasgow and Berlin will host the first edition, with the Scottish city staging six sports, swimming, cycling, rowing, triathlon, golf and gymnastics, and the German capital organizing the athletics competition.
No construction work is needed, with existing venues being used.
"We have to be in control of our sport. I feel we, in athletics, are in total control of this," Hansen said.
"There is one condition and that is that sports must come with their best athletes," he said. "And as long as we can fit them in a good TV program I am not against having more."
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has signed up as the broadcast partner.
The event has also benefited from problems that have hit the competing European Games which were organized for the first time in 2015 by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in Baku, Azerbaijan at a cost of several billion dollars.
The 2019 host has yet to be announced after the Netherlands pulled out citing cost concerns and Russia was scrapped as the next option due to its state-backed doping scandal.
The arrest of EOC President Patrick Hickey in Brazil over a Rio Games ticketing scandal has dealt another blow to the European Games, to which both swimming and athletics have refused to send top athletes.
"We never had an issue with the European Games. I always had a good relationship, especially with Pat Hickey," Hansen said.
"We have not been working against the European Games. We are just focusing on organizing the best European championships"
He said at least 10 countries had expressed interest for the 2022 edition, with its flexible and low cost concept. The decision will be taken next year.
"We are looking for maybe a bit more centralized option, not so far away (as Glasgow and Berlin) for 2022. We have really good candidates and serious interest in writing from sports ministers, even prime ministers," Hansen said.
Other events, including the Olympics, have struggled to attract bidders in recent years, scared off by cost and size. Rome this week became the latest city to pull out of the race to stage the 2024 summer Olympics following Hamburg and Boston.
"We are trying to test out new things," Hansen said. "It will be a big experiment and we are really excited about this."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)