JOIN THE CHAMPS - ROME 2024

In 2014, the Arese family became the owner of KARHU together with Huub Valkenburg. Today, ten years later, the blend of the Finnish brand's legendary heritage and Franco Arese's sports/entrepreneurial legacy creates more than just a commercial platform at the European Athletics Championships in Rome. KARHU's commitment, shared with the EuroRoma 2024 Foundation, aims first and foremost at promoting the values of athletics, celebrating its history, and enhancing the image of a major international event. Indeed, this event holds special significance for the brand's spirit and the personal journey of its Chairman, Franco Arese.   

   

To wrap up this editorial introduction to the European event in the Eternal City between June 7 and 12, we asked Franco Arese to share his thoughts and memories about the long-standing relationship between him, KARHU, and the European Athletics Championships.

Juoksu
Karhu FI

WHICH EDITIONS OF THE EUROPEAN ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS HOLD A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR MIND? 

Definitely Belgrade 1962, when Salvatore Morale won the 400 hurdles in 49"2, setting a world record. I was a kid and read so much about that in the newspapers.... I was blown over. Then, of course, winning the gold in Helsinki '71 was something else. It was an incredible day for me. I remember it raining during the award ceremony, and when I heard the Italian anthem, I got confused. I didn't know if it was raindrops or tears running down my face. Finally, I'd also say 1994, when the European Championships returned to Helsinki. I took the whole family. My wife and I did right by always bringing our children to the big events, making them fall in love with athletics. That family experience, in particular, was wonderful. 

KARHU WAS A SPONSOR OF THE EUROPEAN ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN HELSINKI '71. THANKS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, IT'S RENEWING THAT COMMITMENT TO THE EVENT. HOW DOES THIS HISTORICAL AND EMOTIONAL CONNECTION MAKE YOU FEEL?

It is something strange, really peculiar. This connection brings me enormous pleasure. KARHU will forever be a part of my success in Helsinki. Now, more than half a century later, coming back as a partner in this event that represents so much to me.... it has a special appeal. This partnership brings it all together: my life as an athlete, my career as an entrepreneur, and my family. It's one-of-a-kind and incredibly meaningful.  

 WHAT DOES ATHLETICS MEAN FOR YOU TODAY?

 For me, athletics is still everything. We can't live solely in our memories, but memories are part of my life. Athletics became part of me; it changed me completely. Besides the results, athletics has provided me with unforgettable experiences, shaping me as a human being. Let me give you a practical example: 50 years ago, the idea of getting on a plane and traveling around the world, discovering it, was the stuff of dreams. Feeling like a part of this world is wonderful and unique, especially during those times. And athletics introduced me to my wife. That's why I'll always love athletics.

EUROPEAN MIDDLE-DISTANCE RUNNING IS ENJOYING A RENAISSANCE. AS A FORMER MIDDLE-DISTANCE RUNNER AND EUROPEAN CHAMPION, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?

It's extremely important not only for European middle distance but also for the sport worldwide. Europe has to get competitive and successful again in the middle distance, as it was in my time with Nordic athletes and Finns, especially. They dominated the entire sport. After that, there was a more nuanced period where great African champions made their mark. Today, in addition to the satisfaction in the broad sense of the word, this gradual return of European middle distance gives us a chance to impart that rich European history in the running and lay the foundations for its future.

YOU DESCRIBED THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN KARHU AND THE EUROPEAN ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS AS A SHARED COMMITMENT TO PROMOTE THE VALUES OF ATHLETICS. THIS NOTION GOES BEYOND SIMPLE MARKET LOGIC. WHAT ARE THESE VALUES FOR YOU?

First and foremost, athletics teaches you never to give up. That's the first rule. Every champion struggles at some point, but athletics teaches that certain values, like hard work, always yield results. And these values can be carried over into our everyday lives as I did at the end of my sports career.

 HOW ELSE HAS YOUR SPORTS BACKGROUND BEEN HELPFUL IN BUSINESS?

 It's allowed me to set goals and achieve them. That said, if you have to break a record, you must train hard. In the business world, it's the same. When you have to make a profit and increase brand awareness, the dynamic is quite similar: you have a goal and need to meet it with the right mindset. Athletics has also taught me that there are always goals to reach, and giving up gets you nowhere. Athletics has also given me enthusiasm, a crucial quality in sports as much as in work. Another thing is the stopwatch. It shows you if you're making it or not. The same goes for centimeters in the case of jumps or throws. They are rational, scientific means of evaluation, and similar measurements can be used in work or your personal life. They help you create a personal balance and understand that either you make a move or you don't: there are no alternatives; the rest is just talk.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE SYMBOLIC ELEMENTS IN THESE EUROPEAN ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN ROME, HAVE YOU ALREADY IMAGINED WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE?

This fusion came about almost by accident. My family and I didn't think we'd become sponsors of these European Championships with KARHU, but the opportunity presented itself, and we jumped in wholeheartedly. For me, even now, it's a victory. It's that simple. A victory without medals, but it's something that gives an 80-year-old like me a chance to experience those incredible feelings again, those amazing sports moments. Athletics always delivers something magical. It's also a victory for the company and its future. This event is an opportunity for our company and our image and development, and it's a huge satisfaction for me and my children, who are working hard to take advantage of this opportunity. They have enthusiasm; as I said before, enthusiasm is essential in life.