Mark Butler previews the European Team Championships
Having followed the European Team Championships and its predecessor the European Cup since the 1970s, I have come to learn that the tournament is not so much about who has the best athletes, but who has the next best athletes.
We should not be surprised that in a year with a very late World Championships, elite performers like Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Christine Ohuruogu, etc are not ready or willing to put their reputation to the test at this stage.
The same is true for other countries, with the men's triple jump being an excellent example.
Like Idowu, world indoor record holder Teddy Tamgho is a late withdrawal and so is Sweden's former Olympic champion Christian Olsson, both injured.
Though we will earn less points than expected in that event, the absence for instance of the top German sprinters Sebastian Ernst and Verena Sailer should mean Britain scores better in the men's 200m and women's 100m.
The volatility of the entry list brings as many advantages as there are problems for all of the 12 competing countries. It is swings and roundabouts, an expression which is used in the same way in Swedish - gungorna och karusellen - "the swings or the roundabouts."
All of which makes my job of forecasting more challenging, because excellent new athletes come into play and their placings are just as important as the great champions who will be performing at Stockholm's Olympic Stadium this weekend.
It's not enough to consider Dwain Chambers v Christophe Lemaitre in the men's 100 metres, I must also ponder who will place in the bottom four in the women's hammer throw. Hopefully not new British record holder Sophie Hitchon, who I feel can place at least eighth.
While Britain will miss some star performers, we will gain extra women's points this year from newly transferred Shana Cox (400 metres), Tiffany Porter (100m Hurdles) and Shara Proctor (Long Jump). Those last two events in particular have been ones where we have scored badly in recent editions. This time it is possible that the British women's score could approach that of our men.
Adding together 40 events worth of 12 placements, I am predicting that Russia will retain their European Team Trophy from Germany and Ukraine, with France and Britain battling for fourth place. I think it will be a great weekend for our hurdlers and men's relay teams, but less so for our triple jumpers and shot putters.
All of which means there is no danger of relegation for the country which will host the next edition of this meeting at Gateshead in 2013.
PREDICTED TEAM PLACINGS
1 Russia 366
2 Germany 348
3 Ukraine 317
4 Great Britain & NI 304
5 France 302
6 Italy 258
7 Poland 250
8 Czech Republic 237
9 Spain 222
10 Portugal 183
11 Belarus 177
12 Sweden 156
|PREDICTED BRITISH PLACINGS|
|Sat: women's hammer, Sophie Hitchon 8th||Sun: men's hammer, Andy Frost 11th|
|Sat: men's 400m hurdles, Dai Greene 1st||Sun: women's shot putt, Rebecca Peake 11th|
|Sat: men's shot putt, Greg Beard 12th||Sun: men's 110m hurdles, Andy Turner 1st|
|Sat: men's long jump, Chris Tomlinson 5th||Sun: women's long jump, Shara Proctor 7th|
|Sat: women's pole vault, Holly Bleasdale 5th||Sun: men's pole vault, Steven Lewis 5th|
|Sat: women's 100m, Anyika Onuora 4th||Sun: women's 200m, Abiodun Oyepitan 4th|
|Sat: men's 400m, Conrad Williams 3rd||Sun: men's 800m, Gareth Warburton 6th|
|Sat: women's javelin, Goldie Sayers 5th||Sun: women's high jump, Emma Perkins 11th|
|Sat: women's 800m, Jenny Meadows 2nd||Sun: men's discus, Brett Morse 7th|
|Sat: men's high jump, Samson Oni 6th||Sun: women's 100m hurdles, Tiffany Porter 1st|
|Sat: men's 100m, Dwain Chambers 2nd||Sun: men's 3,000m, Andy Baddeley 2nd|
|Sat: women's 3,000m, Stevie Stockton 9th||Sun: women's 1,500m, Charlene Thomas 4th|
|Sat: women's 400m hurdles, Perri Shakes-Drayton 2nd||Sun: men's triple jump, Kola Adedoyin 12th|
|Sat: women's triple jump, Yasmine Regis 10th||Sun: men's 200m, Danny Talbot 3rd|
|Sat: men's 1,500m, James Shane 5th||Sun: women's discus, Jade Nicholls 8th|
|Sat: women's 3km steeplechase, Eilish McColgan 9th||Sun: women's 5,000m, Helen Clitheroe 3rd|
|Sat: men's javelin, James Campbell 7th||Sun: men's 3km steeplechase, Luke Gunn 7th|
|Sat: women's 400m, Shana Cox 5th||Sun: women's 4x400m, 2nd|
|Sat: men's 5,000m, Andy Vernon 4th||Sun: men's 4x400m, 1st|
|Sat: women's 4x100m, 5th|
|Sat: men's 4x100m, 1st|