In 1975, 48 years ago, the first edition of Alytus competition took place; a total of 19 race walkers from Alytus, Birštonas and Druskininkai participated in the event. As the years passed, a number of participants went up, and event’s popularity increased inside and outside Lithuania. Algeria and Kazakhstan, Panama and Israel, Tajikistan and Italy, Azerbaijan and Sweden, France and Russia, Hong Kong and South Africa, Spain and Mexico, Greece and Turkey, Columbia and Guatemala, etc…. these are some examples of a total of 50 countries that were represented in the event. The highest number of athletes participated in the festival in 1988, when 386 race walkers took part in races, however there were even more athletes willing to take part, but a number had to be limited due to the lack of available accommodation. Alytus was among the first to combine sport and culture, perhaps the first in Eastern Europe or even the whole race walking world; traditionally the athletes would be presented with valuable prizes. This is the event where many national and international prominent race walkers started their athletic career.

Residents of Alytus have had multiple opportunities to observe Olympic, World, European, African, Asian and American champions and medal winners as well as record holders in action. Town’s streets have seen the performance of Olympic champions Jelena Nikolajeva, Vyacheslav Ivanenko, Andrej Perlov from Russian Federation, Antonella Palmisano (ITA), David Tomala (POL), Olympic medal winners Jorge Liopart (ESP), Aigars Fadejevs (LAT), Ronald  Weigel (GER), Pyotr Pochenchuk (BLR), Vladimir Andrejev (RUS), Erick Barrondo (GUA),World champions Aleksandr Potashov (BLR) and Yohann Diniz (FRA), World championships medal winners Valentina Cibulskaja, Olga Kardopolceva, Michail Chmelnickiy, Jevgenij Misiulia, Franz Kostiukevich (all from BLR), Hatem Ghuola (TUN), Trond Nymark (NOR), Eder Sanchez (MEX), Perseus Kalstriom (SWE), European champions Natalia Dmitrochenko (BLR),Antigoni Drisbioti (GRE), medal winners at European championships Grzegosz Sudol (POL), Dzimitry Dziubin (BLR), Vasilij Mizinov (ANA), Victoria Madarasz ( HUN), Christopher Linke ( GER), world and Europian records holders from Lithuania Sada Eidikytė, Kristina Saltanovič, Valdas Kazlauskas, Vytautas Žurnia, Antanas Grigaliūnas, as well as Tatjana Gudkova (RUS), Eleonora Giorgi (ITA) and many other well-known race walkers.

World records were broken in Alytus by Russian athletes Yelena Sayko in 1991 (10 km – 42:22),  and Jelena Nikolajeva in 1992 (3 km - 11:55), Belarusian athletes Frantz Kostiukevich – 5 km (18:49), European records were broken by Olga Kardopolceva in 1990 (5 km – 20:41). Two world veteran records that have not been broken since, were also achieved in Alytus and belong to Chuvashian race walker Viktor Semenov – 10 km (41:28) and 20 km (1:24:31).

Alytus can be proud not only for sport competition, but also for its athletes: USSR champions and medal winners Rimantas Šimkevičius, Rūta Erlingytė, Danutė Baranauskaitė, Algis Lebedžius. The latter has won bronze medal in European youth championships. Alytus can be proud of its 4 Olympians in race walking events. Gintaras Andriuškevičius raced in Athens, brothers Donatas and Darius Škarnulis in Beijing, another town’s representative Brigita Virbalytė raced in London, Rio and Tokio. The latter is also the athlete who has achieved the highest results among Lithuanian race walkers in World championships (she finished 7th in Beijing, 2015) and European championships (4th in Berlin, 2018).

The sponsors of Alytus festival have been well known local and international companies: Medvilnės kombinatas, Šaldytuvų gamykla, "Liežaliava", "Daisotra",  "Alkesta", "Altreklama", "Elmonta". Alytus municipality, Lithuanian athletics federation, LRT, FM’99 have also played an important role, the festival received publicity thanks to newspapers "Lietuvos Rytas", "Sportas". Vytautas Zambacevičius and Juozas Lietuvininkas, Rolandas Kuraitis and Danielius Jakšys, Česlovas Daugėla and Jurgis Krasnickas, Nerijus Cesiulis and Jonas Stamkauskas, Romas Jurgelevičius and Rimantas Morkūnas, Marytė Marcinkevičiūtė and Rūta Lankininkaitė’s often invisible but very important contributions added to festival’s organisation and publicity.

Kastytis Pavilonis

The initiator and organizer of the festival

Reference sponsors

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