By Curtis Anderson / TrackTown USA

PORTLAND, Ore. – More than 1,500 people crowded the steps of Pioneer Courthouse Square to celebrate the unveiling of the locally designed and built Portland 2016 Countdown Clock on Wednesday.

Standing 19-feet tall and weighing 3,945 pounds, the clock will display a digital countdown in days, hours, minutes and seconds until the first day of competition at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships. The 16th edition of the biennial meet will be contested on U.S. soil for the first time in nearly 30 years next March. The four-day meet will be held in the Oregon Convention Center, featuring a new banked 200-meter oval track and state-of-the-art 7,000-seat stadium. The event opens with the men’s and women’s pole vault on Thursday at 7:05 p.m., preceded by the opening ceremonies.

TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna, USATF CEO Max Siegel and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales joined nearly 20 world-class track and field athletes at the event. While Mayor Hales had the honor of unveiling the clock, all of the speakers were unified in their message asking the crowd to join them in welcoming the world to Portland.

“Today, we are all Citizens of TrackTown USA,” Lananna said. “If you believe in the power of sport and appreciate great performances, you are one of us.”

Students from five local high schools attended the celebration – Grant, Lincoln, Central Catholic, De La Salle North and St. Mary’s – reveling in the chance to meet such luminaries as French pole vault world record-holder and reigning Olympic gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie, who addressed the crowd while standing under a pole vault bar set to his staggering record clearance of 20 feet, 2 ½ inches (6.16m).

Besides the unveiling of the Portland 2016 Countdown Clock, the four-hour celebration featured live music, food, beverages, youth activities, exhibits and words of inspiration by some of the greatest track and field athletes in the world, many of whom will be back in Portland in March for the IAAF World Indoor Championships to kick off the Olympic year.

“It’s you guys. It’s Oregon, its Portland, it’s home,” said Oregon Track Club Elite’s Andrew Wheating, a two-time Olympian and University of Oregon alum. “To know that I have Oregon and a whole nation on my side, I think any American would consider that a true advantage.”

Those in attendance also took advantage of an opportunity to buy tickets for the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships before they became available to the public online and via the Tickets West call center today (May 28).

“Let’s ignite a spark that will be felt for generations to come,” Lananna said. “Let’s tell our story together and welcome the world to Oregon.”

For event and ticket information, please visit Portland2016.com