Moscow 2013 legacy: With or without a question mark? by Elena Dyachkova

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Luzhniki Stadium, from IAAF.jpg

Luzhniki Stadium, picture courtesy of the IAAF

Elena Dyachkova is freelance writer from Russia, who had been working for the ARAF and organizers of track and field events in Moscow for several years, and a big fan of the sport . This is Elena's first piece for RunBlogRun, and she will be writing columns twice a month on Russian athletics. 

Moscow 2013 legacy. With or without a question mark?


As the Moscow 2013 stadium gets ready to host world-class football and the ARAF prepares for the first post-World Championships season, it is the time to discuss: what did the event change for the Russian athletics?


A few days ago a tender for renovation of the "Luzhniki" Olympic stadium was announced. A $ 600-million project will include just a slight increase in seating capacity (from 78000 to 81000), but as it gets ready to host the FIFA World Cup 2018, it will get rid of brand new Mondo track, jumping and throwing sectors.

 

One of the reasons for investment in hosting events of such a scope as the IAAF World Championships is to have a legacy for the city and the country, both material (facilities, human resources) and intangible (popularity of the sport and participation levels). With the best arena in the city closing for renovation and not likely to have athletics in it for at least five years (there is in fact a line on the very last page of the tender documentation saying: foresee a possibility of turning the football arena into athletics arena with 50 000 seating capacity), the question arises: is there any legacy of Moscow 2013 at all?


In terms of facilities there definitely is. Other three tracks of the "Luzhniki" complex  were renovated for the Worlds and received brand new equipment ranging from hurdles and starting blocks to weight training equipment. The South Arena with a newly installed Mondo track in 2014 will host the IAAF World Challenge meeting, it will be the third time that the event of this level is held in Moscow. In fact, much smaller stands at the South Arena should contribute to a much better atmosphere compared to the virtually empty ones of the Big Arena. For London 2012 and Moscow 2013 preparation of the national team there was a top-level track built at the Olympic Training Center "Novogorsk" in Moscow oblast', recently the adjacent indoor track opened its doors for the national team as well.

 

Huge work was undertaken by the All-Russia Athletics Federation and the IAAF Regional Development Centre in terms of judges' education. There were many talks about a need for a new generation of officials in Russia, and here they are - young, motivated, active, with a better knowledge of English and important international experience in their portfolio. Interestingly enough, there was a number of well known athletes working as sports volunteers and officials in Moscow. The Olympic medalist in the triple jump Danil Burkenya is considered an authority in this field already, but this summer he was joined by the likes of pole vaulters Victor Chistyakov, Pavel Burlachenko, middle distance runner Anna Alminova. Decorated 400 m runner Olesya Zykina worked as a part of the event presentation team, Olympic relay medalist Anton Kokorin was a host for IAAF TV. Which brings us to another important point - the event presentation and TV crews that work with the ARAF at all one-day events held in Moscow have also gained a valuable experience and are ready to go for major events in the future.


According to Mikhail Butov, the ARAF General Secretary, an increased interest from potential sponsors can already be seen. Moreover, the travel agency Sputnik, one of the LOC partners, will from now on include Moscow athletics events in its tour offers. The ARAF press secretary Alla Glushchenko notes that the levels of media interest for the major events' medalists are always high, but after Moscow 2013 there are much more request from non-sports media, such as prime-time TV-shows and celebrity magazines. Of course, most of the requests are for the pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva, as well as for other Russian beauties: high jumpers Svetlana Shkolina and Anna Chicherova, the hammer throw champion Tatyana Lysenko and the victorious 4x400 m relay team.


It will be interesting to measure the changes in participation in grassroots track and field and recreational running after the Worlds. The Nike Running ambassador in Russia Aleksandra Boyarskaya believes that the event didn't affect the running culture much: "It probably increased the popularity of Usain Bolt and patriotism levels... It's like theater or circus. Even if one likes' the show, he doesn't necessarily want to become a clown afterwards. Although, it may be different for kids". Well, at least Moscow runners have a new free facility and running club - adidas runbase - which was opened by the IAAF Official Partner as a part of their marketing efforts. It is still in operation in the "Luzhniki" complex and keeps gaining its popularity. And it's worth saying that as a part of the promotional campaign the IAAF Ambassadors Mike Powell, Wilson Kipketer and Colin Jackson hosted their kids clinics in different regions of Russia inspiring hundreds of kids to pursue track and field.


But what about the spectator interest? Empty stands were probably the biggest concern of the organizers coming into the World Championships. Fortunately, by the last weekend of the competition the tickets were sold out and it was considered a huge success. But will this interest for the sport maintain itself? This is yet to be seen. The winter season is about to start and arguably the best one-day event in Moscow and in the whole country "Russian Winter" will be the first important indicator of the spectators' interest after Moscow 2013. But of course, the organizers should play their "World Championships cards" right.


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