TrackTown on the home stretch... or just on a start line?
After working for the Moscow 2013 IAAF World Championships Local Organising Committee last year, this summer I moved to Eugene for an internship with the LOC of the IAAF World Junior Championships Oregon 14. There is still more than three weeks left until the event, but we already know, that the history will be made.
The USA has never hosted such a big IAAF World Athletics Series event before, and it is symbolic that the first event of this kind and scope will be held in Eugene, the TrackTown USA. This is the place, where people love this sport, appreciate it and understand it. And Eugene most certainly can make the athletes from all around the world feel like home.
If you are in downtown, on campus or in business areas of the town, it's hard not to know about the event, because you can see the flags on the lamp posts all around. The back of the East Grandstand of the Hayward Field is decorated with a huge banner, that can't possibly be overlooked. And, as the track action in Eugene hardly ever stops, you can regularly hear about the World Juniors, at each and every event.
Hayward Field is busy indeed. The Prefontaine Classic, two weeks later - the NCAA Championships, two more weeks and we'll already be hosting the USATF Junior Championships, and then - the final countdown until the biggest athletics event of the summer. Plus the all-comers meets in-between.
Having experienced the preparation of two major events - the IAAF Race Walking Cup and Moscow 2013 from the get-go to the finish, it was interesting for me to compare the LOC operations. And, having just arrived to the TrackTown USA, I was impressed by the team work here. The core employees have done quite a number of big events together (the National Trials and the NCAA's), so the level of mutual understanding and cooperation is exceptionally high. And for some reason all newcomers, interns and volunteers get that "teamwork bug".
But the most important thing is that the LOC has a goal in mind - to show the world how good Eugene and the state of Oregon are at hosting such big international events. Time will fly fast until it's time for the Portland 2016 World Indoors. And the city definitely has the IAAF World Championships 2019 in mind. Of course, there are many logistical details to be sorted out for that to happen - international flights, hotels, additional seating at the Hayward Field, because the World Championships is just so much bigger than the World Juniors in any respect. But the passion and hospitality, and the ability to run all event operations smoothly are just as important. So the stakes are pretty high right now, not that we are scared.
Speaking of an actual readiness for the World Juniors, things are looking good so far. The accommodation for the teams in secured on-campus, the volunteer recruitment is on the home stretch with an international student population of the University of Oregon catering to the needs of the LOC, especially in terms of speaking multiple languages. Many of the event operations have already been tested at the NCAA Championships. For example, many media representatives could be surprised by having the media center being represented by a huge tent, with the mixed zone being set-up right in there. At least, I've never seen anything like that before, but it proved to be very convenient. Well, if you have too many flash interviews to take, you probably won't be in the stands too much, but this is actually nothing new for track and field writers.
Next week, Eugene is hosting another "dress rehearsal" for the big event - the USATF Junior Championships. It is not only about the team selection and another test for event operations. but also about the local track fans taking advantage of the free admission to get a taste of what is going to happen at Hayward Field soon, and maybe even picking the best spot on the stands with an aim to be back. To definitely be back.