Media: Versus Gets A Plus on Gaz de France Meeting!

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The Golden League has had a see saw relationship with US television. Some years, it is one, some years, it is off. This year, Versus, formerly the Outdoor Life Network, has done a fabulous coup and is running the Golden League series, hosted by Tim Hutichings and Tim Story. This commentator found them perfect, but a question persists, why no publicity from USATF, the governing body of the sport in the United
States?

The well-edited, one hour production of the IAAF Golden League's second meeting, the Gaz de France, was a model sports production. You do have to hand it to the IAAF, they realized years ago that television was key to promoting the sport of athletics. For years now (perhaps a dozen), the IAAF has provided video of the IAAF meetings for television around the world. This was the work of the late Primo Nebiola, who played the most compelling game of brinksmanship when he negotiated TV deals with the various networks.

Fans in the U.S. have been frustrated for years about getting athletics on the tube--in 1983, I remember staying up until 2 am to watch coverage of each nights' world championship coverage.

This year, USA Track & Field has signed an agreement for representation with a new marketing group, the Wasserman Group. They will also be selling US Swimming and US Gymnastics as well--a brilliant move, if the sales can be done. As track, swimming and gymnastics are the sports that bring home 60 percent of US Olympic medals, the Wasserman Media Group should have something to sell.

At this time, they are focusing on the opportunities on the web, trying to gain access to coverage of major events across the U.S. and abroad and selling sponsors for this exclusive coverage. Brilliant, simple and focused, except for one problem. Many people own this coverage, and there are lots of moving parts. And also, TV is not dead yet, even with 520 tv stations right, so why are we not working with Television as well? Alot of this is conjecture, as it is so early in the relationship between the three federations and Wasserman that no one really knows how they will make this work. Applause to the federations for not sitting around, but a thoughtful warning-our sports will grow by embracing the various platforms of communication-print, electronic, broadband, cable and even ipods. If you want to see where the future is going, check out Flotrack.com and letsrun.com. Those independent voices are key in our sport.

In a time when the U.S. track and field fortunes are looking fabulous, I watched a fine one hour of coverage, sponsored by the IAAF, on Versus, with great commentating and spot on coverage. The highlight of the meet were the mishaps in the men's steeplechase and the great race in the men's 1,500 meters, where Alan Webb showed
his new ability to run him competition down the final straightaway, a skill needed to win World Championship medals! The alert commentators noted that the bell had been rang one lap too early in the steeplechase and the misfortunes of Paul Koech who ran 7:02 and then started running again, when he saw the rest of the field running another lap! While it was a catastrophe, that the commentators handled it well showed the independence and quality of the coverage.

But, who could not watch Alan Webb run down Mehdi Baala of France, in front of 50,000 fans, over the last 50 meters? It took Alan Webb a minute to recover from his great win, and this was caught on TV, in a way only a good cameraman can do, to give the fan something to savor! Versus should be commended for this wonderful coverage and get an A for the focus on the competition and the sparse, but thoughtful commentary!

My only complaint is that we need some early schedule info for coverage here in North America!

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