The World Champs last weekend were a wake up call for many athletes. Some of the new starts who came through Valencia will be seen in Beijing and will make a real showing there.
In my conversations with agents, athlete managers, and the major sponsors, while the medals in World Champs do matter and are part of what a sponsor wants to see in their elite athlete portfolio's, athlete sponsors are looking for two things---less competitions, better performances and most important of all is what the athlete does in an Olympic setting....
For an athlete today, the number of competitions available for the elite athlete could give them a nearly eleven month season. With the average life span of an elite athlete is three years, do the increased number of championships help or hinder an athlete's development and do they help put our sport into a higher position of visibility or not?
The facts are that our sport is more competitive than ever. It is truly a global sport with teams from 200 plus countries in a typical World Outdoor Championships or an Olympics. For distance runners, there are races twelve months of the year. This indoor, outdoor, cross country and eleven month outdoor world tour has crowded our sports calendar. I believe that it is hurting our ability to bring in new sponsors, and it confuses the regular sports fan who can not figure out if the meet has any value or not in the world of sports.
Track & Field is a sport with a long heritage, a sport that can be attractive to each and every sports fan around the world because, at its essence, our sport is about competition. For years however, our sport did not change, and we lost sponsors, events and most importantly fans.
While, over the past decade, there have been some strong changes in the sport, the confusion over the long schedule of events, the lack of creativity in developing new events and the lack of understanding about what competitive sports were and are doing, has hurt our sport.
Yesterday, however, our sport, and the value of events was put into perspecitve. Haile Grebreselassie, 24 time world record holder, world record holder at the marathon, has decided to forgo the Olympic marathon, and focus on the 10,000 meters. This is becaus e of his concern with the air quality in Beijing.
An Olympic medal, of which Haile has three, is the most important award a track and field athlete can earn. The significance of the Olympics is that it is a global event, it is seen by over six billion people around the world and it is seen as the greatest sport spectacle of the year!
The Olympic championships are every four years, their buildup over the three months before the champion is unprecedented. If you want to want an Olympic event, and you have a TV, you will be able to see some of the Olympics from Beijing.
In the athletics world, we need to learn from the Olympics. Too many meets, to many poorly run meets, too many rules, and too many options before Beijing means that the unfocused athlete will not survive. For our sport to survive, athletics must re invent itself.
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