Usain Bolt dazzling 85,000 friends in the Birds' Nest, August 2008, by PhotoRun.net.
If I close my eyes, I can find myself in the Birds Nest, in Beijing, sitting with James O'Brien and Pat Butcher, as we witnessed the Usain Bolt Show. Each night of track and field, we climbed into the media area, set up our computers, placed our stat books and the People's Daily, on one side of the computer and a cold beverage on the other side.
Usain Bolt was more than brilliant, his absolute domination, his ability to communicate with 80,000 sports fans, and his ability to feed off the crowd made his races true sport moments.
How does one create such great moments in sport? In our sport, one puts together fields that are just 'stacked'. One lane after another of medalists: fast, competitive runners. A month ago when Doug Logan mentioned his idea for Jamaica vs US, it was picked up everywhere. Great idea! What a meet!
However, as one who actually makes a living from this sport, and one who has had the privilege of putting on small meets and then observing the intricacies of major event management, the dream and the reality of putting on a meet are two very different concepts.
The great notion dropped by Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track & Field continues to live a kind of half-life. The JAF is now responding about putting the events on in 2010, which gives Logan some additional airplay and cache. Kudos to Logan for noting that he will be involving the various stakeholders in the sport. As of March 31, none of the managers of the major athletes had been contacted or approached by Mr. Logan or his team. He has a year, the conversations will have to be held. That's just good business.
And then there is the problem with sponsorship. The US squad will be called to race in US (Nike) uniforms, cutting their number of appearances down in their (adidas, ASICS, Reebok, PUMA) primary sponsors apparel. The Jamaican Federation is sponsored by PUMA, so the same thing holds-major athletes there are sponsored by adidas and Nike. Part of the move here, in these economic times, seems to be, for the federations to push their cache with the sponsors and remove much of the control that managers and elite athletes have on the current operations of the sport.
More than one footwear sponsorship mogul has noted to this writer that the continued addition of dual meets, and anything that calls for federation uniforms lessens the need for individual contracts. At the end of the day, however, one wonders if the meets will even come off, as the intangibles of major event production in this modern day are what stop events. Or as musician Steve Forbert penned two decades ago in the song, Cellophane City, " you can not win, if you do not play."
Finally, finally, maybe we just do not get it. My belief is that Doug Logan was sent to USA Track & Field to do the unseemly work of changing a headstrong federation into a docile kitchen pet for the USOC. I think that Mr. Logan expected a much tougher fight--and was ready for it. However, to his consternation, and that of one former USOC CEO, USA Track & Field has gone through a decade of changes, some truly important and life changing, with barely a street brawl. And in less than one year!
I am quietly impressed with the new board: able people who want to make our sport better, who love the sport, and who, for some reason, will give up weekends with their families so our sport can grow and prosper.
However, we must consider this: the battle for the future of the sport was fought during the search process for a new CEO. Trying to appreciate the gravity of that process, by gathering information from various sources, has convinced me that what we were told about the process and the reality of the situation were quite different. The term, realpolitik, coined by Otto von Bismarck, the prime minister of Prussia, in the nineteeth century, would be appropriate in describing the single mindedness of the search company in guaranteeing the desired outcome. The control that the head hunter held in this process reminds me of a coronation rather than an election. I have no issue with monarchies. My issue is that a process that was supposed to give us confidence in the search procedure could hurt the effectiveness of the new CEO and board of USA Track & Field.
The hard part of being a CEO is in the nature of governance. In trying times, human beings naturally gravitate to strong minded leaders. In the absence of strong leadership, the loudest voice tends to stand out. I wish Doug Logan and the new board the best of luck in this new endeavor.
Now, comes the hard work: governance. Be careful what one wishes for....
OLYMPIC WINNER TO OPEN IN KINGSTON
ORLANDO (USA): Jamaican olympic 200 m winner and 100 m world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown plans in May to compete at two meetings. This will be also her season openers, most probably at 100 m. First on May 2 at Jamaica Invitational in Kingston. Followed by adidas Track Classic on May 16 in Carson, California. She was not competing indoors, her last start was that excellent run in Shanghai in September where she clocked despite very bad start still 11.01.
DINIZ TO DOUBLE IN BERLIN
DUDINCE (SVK): French walker Yohan Diniz explained after his Saturday´s new French record at 50 km that he aims to double at World Championships in Berlin. That means to compete in both walking events, the 20 km and 50 km. In the world championships nobody so far won both events at one championships, but Poland´s great Robert Korzeniowski achieved that historical feat at Sydney Games in 2000. Second placer in Dudince Slovak Matej Toth plans only 50 km in Berlin, but wants to contest prior to championships three 20 km races – on April 25 in Podebrady, Czech Republic than at European Cup in Metz and on June 6 in Borsky Mikulas at national championships.
LONDON (GBR): UK Athletics announced that Ed Warner will remain as chairman of UKA until after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Informs David Martin. The appointment of Warner as Chairman was initially for a three year period, but in a decision endorsed by the UK Members Council, the board have extended Warner’s contract until January 2013. It means Warner, whose first duty in 2007 was to appoint CEO Niels de Vos, will continue in his role as a part time non-executive director leading the Board of UKA, working closely with de Vos, and continuing to lead UKA’s development both within Great Britain and the global athletics community.
PARIS (FRA): Ghani Yalouz 1996 Olympic silver medallist in greco-roman wrestling was officially named technical director of French athletics. Yalouz succeeds Franck Chevallier.
BRAZZAVILLE (CGO): The 2009 edition of the Brazzaville meet has been cancelled
MODESTO (USA): As trackandfieldnews.com reports, the California Invitational Relays will take a one-year hiatus before returning to the national track calendar in 2010. The world-renowned track and field competition, which moved to the state capital late last year following a 67-year run in Modesto, was originally scheduled for May 9 at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. Meet Director Gregg Miller said it was a very difficult decision to cancel the 2009 meet and delay the event’s Sacramento debut, but he expressed confidence that it is the best decision for the event’s long-term future. The California Relays produced 32 world records by such all-time greats as Ralph Boston, Dutch Warmerdam, Bobby Morrow, Jim Hines, Hal Connolly and Stacy Dragila.
KINGSTON (JAM): The much-anticipated 99th 2009 ISSA/Grace-Kennedy Boys‘ and Girls‘ Championships begins on Wednesday the two big questions are: Can Kingston College (KC) unseat defending boys‘ champions Calabar High? Will Holmwood Technical have enough to hold off the challenge of Edwin Allen High and pocket their seventh straight girls‘ title? Writes Jamaica Star. Over the next four days, one thing is for sure, the competition inside the National Stadium will be hot with St Jago, Jamaica College (JC) and Wolmer‘s adding to the mix among the boys and Vere Technical and Manchester High there to keep the heat on the top contenders in the girls‘ events. A record 40 international journalists have been accredited to cover the event.
OTTAWA (CAN) : Canadian public television channel CBC announced reduction or elimination of sports coverage including international figure skating, skiing, world aquatics, world athletics and soccer as part of the cuts to cope with a CAN $171-million deficit. “Coverage of world championships in aquatics, athletics and rowing will be pruned back. Most likely, CBC will pick up the world feed and have announcers call the events off monitors” Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star reports.
INDIANAPOLIS (USA): The USA vs. Jamaica Challenge Series will debut in 2010 (probably in March), USA Track & Field and the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association announced on Tuesday (31). The meets would feature male and female athletes in the 100, 200 and 400 meters; 100/110m hurdles and 400m hurdles; long jump; and the 4x100, 4x400 and sprint medley relays. „We look forward to taking on our American friends in head-to-head competition in 2010,“ said JAAA President Howard Aris. „We are confident that this kind of team competition, featuring the most exciting events in athletics, will prove captivating to fans around the world.“ Informs trackandfieldnews.com.
TATA (HUN): István Rózsavölgyi, who was the undisputed king of 1500m in Hungary winning the national championships five times in succession between 1956 to 1960, was honoured by naming the athletics stadium in Tata with his name to commemorate the 80th birth anniversary. Rózsavölgyi was one of the favorites for the Olympic Gold medal in 1956, after setting a new world 1500m record of 3:40.6. Even thought he failed to win any medal in Melbourne, four years later he was back to his best and went on to win the bronze medal at the Rome Olympic Games in 1960. Informs European-athletics.org.
EUGENE (USA): The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Award for Sport and the Environment has honored the Local Organizing Committee for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and the Oregon Track Club with its highest honor, the Sport and the Environment Award, for their environmental and sustainability efforts during Eugene 08, goducks.com informs. The sustainability initiatives during Eugene 08 were a combined effort of the Cities of Eugene and Springfield, the University of Oregon, State of Oregon government officials and hundreds of volunteers. During the 2008 Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field at Hayward Field, a number of sustainable efforts were made, including using all electric power from Green Energy sources, a solar powered stage at the Eugene 08 Festival, bike valet service, significant use of a bus shuttle system, and a massive recycling and composting effort which resulted in a Lane County Special Event “Trashbuster” Award.
NEW YORK (USA): Race Results Weekly reports, that UniversalSports.com will provide coverage of the spring marathon season, including live video coverage of Sunday‘s Fortis Marathon Rotterdam. Also, the Boston and Flora London Marathons will be carried live on UniversalSports.com on April 20 and 26, respectively.
BRUNSUM (NED): Agent Ricky Simms provided each km splits for Micah Kogo 10 km road world record 27:01 on last Sunday. From that it is seen that the fastest was the 5th km followed by last 10th and 2nd. The slowest the fourth and third. The splits: 2:41.00 – 2:39.96 – 2:46.29 – 2:49.24 – 2:36.26 – 2:40.36 – 2:42.61 – 2:42.81 – 2:43.41 – 2:38.04.
HARARE (ZIM): As local media are informing, it is not that easy with top sprinter Brian Dzingai compete for Bahrain. He needs a “genuine reason” to turn out for the oil-rich Gulf State Bahrain soon or wait for a three-year stand down period to be stripped of his national colours, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) has said. With waiting he will be 31 years old. Joseph Mungwari, the NAAZ president said the association was not being “punitive” but were simply, following the rulebook and had informed Dzingai of the implications of his move. Mungwari said the “stand down period” could be reduced on “humanitarian grounds” to 12 months.
However, according to correspondence, the General-Secretary of the Bahrain Athletics Association (BAA), Abdul Rahman Askar, wrote to NAAZ earlier this year requesting that the trio (Nyongani, Makusha, Dzingai) be released to turn out for his country. At least one of the athletes, Dzingai wrote to the NAAZ seeking clearance to turn out for Bahrain. 400 m runner Talkmore Nyongani and long jumper Ngozi Makusha have indicated they are not interested in moving to Bahrain.
MOSCOW (RUS): Pole Vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva confirmed that she will compete at each of the A*F Golden League meetings. She also plans three other meetings inbetween. That gives together with World Championships in Berlin 10 competitions, also ten possibilities to improve the world record. The 26-year-old, last year’s World Athlete of the Year said for IAAF that she doesn’t currently see any “serious rivals” in her event – “My main rival is myself” she said – and instead finds her motivation in the fans of the sport. During indoor season 2009 she won all three meetings she contested (Donetsk, Birmingham, Praha).
WACO (USA): Double world champion Jeremy Wariner who lost his quest for second Olympic gold at 400 m in Beijing last year to LaShawn Merritt is ready to learn from his mistakes. „I learned from the races that I lost, what I did wrong. I learned how to correct them,“ he was quoted. After already 200 m races he plans his first 400 m for Drake Relays on April 25.
CARLSBAD (USA): The field for Sunday’s Carlsbad 5 km road race will feature four U.S. Olympians, two each in the men’s and women’s races. Says universalsports.com. Fresh off winning the USA 15k Championship, steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti will make his Carlsbad debut with sights set on Marc Davis’ 13-year-old American record of 13:24. His main competition will likely come from NCAA 5,000m champion Bobby Curtis, an All-American at Villanova, who will be returning from the World Cross-Country Championships in Jordan. Leading the women’s field will be Shannon Rowbury, who will be making her 2009 debut after bursting onto the international scene last year. She will be joined by fellow 1,500m Olympian Christin Wurth-Thomas, who paced world record holder Meseret Defar of Ethiopia during her 2007 victory in this race.
GABORONE (BOT): 400 m runner Amantle Montsho has broken yet another record becoming the first woman in a long time to win the Sports Person of the Year Award at a glamorous Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) awards ceremony last weekend. The last year 400m African Champion, once again won the Sportswomen of the Year award beating Tsholofelo Retshabile of volleyball and Nshingi Mosalagae of karate. Informs African Athletics website.
POINTE-A-PIERRE (TRI, Mar 28-29): Jamaican sprinter Xavier Brown achieved hand timed 10.0 (-0.5) and 20.9 at 200 m. In the shorter dash he beat home Keston Bledman who was credited with the same 10.0. Trinidad´s sprinter Reyanne Thomas showed improvement with 11.3 (+0.5) and 23.1 (-0.6) in women races. Tilastopaja informs.
PRETORIA (RSA, Mar 28-29): Yellow Pages South African Junior, Youth and Under 23 Championships produced two new SA Junior and one SA Youth record as well as many qualifying standards for the IAAF World Youth Championships in Bressanone, Italy, in July. Annemie Smith who turned 17 on 24 March, turned in one of the many star performances. She not only smashed both the SA Junior and SA Youth records in the hammer throw and easily qualified for the World Youth Championships but her winning distance of 54,21m moved her into sixth position on the South African all-time list in the event. The other SA junior record fell to promising decathlete, Willem le Roux of Boland when he won the junior title with a points total of 6623 points to better the existing record by 268 points. Caster Semenya the new star in middle distance running, captured two titles by winning the 800 metres in a fast time of 2:02, 04 and the 1500 metres in 4:25, 75. In the hurdles Cornel Fredericks won the 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles titles for juniors in fast times of 13,91 secs and 50,64 secs respectively. Informs SA federation website.
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