Updated January 11, 2016 to correct my mistake on naming note on attribution of Oregonian. My sincere apologies.
The story that recently appeared on Track & Field News updates from the Oregonian, continues to show the challenges of running a World Championships event in North America.The story can be found at this link:http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/track_town_downsizes_world_cha.html.
Vin Lananna and his team at TrackTown are facing the Perfect storm: Budget cuts at the University of Oregon, budget cuts across state of Oregon budget, concerns by local community on changes at Hayward Field, concerns by University of Oregon staff on academics versus athletics. Lots to deal with, and on top of that, the IAAF crisis, which can not be overestimated.
By the end of this week, we will have the second part of the WADA report. The second part of report is focused on the IAAF. What will come out? Well, the obvious is first. The IAAF ethics committees' recent bans show how deep the failures in ethics have gone and how the internal politics within the IAAF has not been good for the sport. Are there good people in the IAAF? Of course, but the current structure of the IAAF, established by Primo Nebiolo and enhanced by Lamine Diack has not been good for the sport. Seb Coe's recent changes and work to develop transparancy in the IAAF are welcome but, too early to note in their effects.
The feeding frenzy continues.
I was particulary curious about Swiss anti-doping, and their breaking of a relationship with the IAAF. I find it a bit disingenuous. I am not sure why the IAAF did not note that since the Swiss screwed up both Russian samples and other samples, the parting between Swiss Anti-doping and IAAF is not, as one fine writer wrote so many years ago, "such sweet sorrow."
Mr. Pound is doing what he does best, pontificating. I am not complaining. If we have to deal with his grand standing a bit, after his momentous research and early findings, I am fine. His comments on IAAF this past weekend, where he brings the ruler out to note that the IAAF is behaving like a 19th century association instead of a 21rst century one, is pretty legitimate scrutiny. However, Mr. Pound needs to be careful. The Ben Johnson fiasco in 1988 caused terrible damage to the sport and to Canadian athletics. If Mr. Pound can remember to use what his country and global sports learnt in 1988, it could prove quite helpful in disseminating the issues we need to currently address, and also to remember that doping has not gone away.
Vin Lananna loves the sport. But, he does, as even close friends will note, have blinders on. It is the only way, sometimes, to get tough work done. I think he is genuinely surprised that Portland 2016 is not sold out. He should not be. Very little advertising has been done to support the event. He has recieved support on promoting the event from the many bloggers, websites and magazines such as Track & Field News and this blog, RunBlogrun. To my knowledge, none of us have seen any financial benefits from that support. But that is one of the issues. In our sport, everthing is expected to be done for free. At the end of the day, the blogs, magazines, websites in our sport have to make a living.
I also believe, from my research, that Vin Lananna was pretty surprised by the 2021 approval. Keen observers have noted that Vinn was not sure what to do after the hard loss of 2019. He was devestated. I remember congratulating him on his gutty performance and hoping he would try it again. He really did not answer my hope that he would run Eugene again in 2021.
That Lamine Diack wanted a positive legacy does not seem to far out of reality. That he realized the need for a World Outdoors in the US is also not too far from reality. Why did Diack do it? Why did he do the authoritarian thing and give Eugene his imperial blessing? I do not know, but it sure looks bad now, with all of the other debaucheries that have come out about former President Diack.
I am also fascinated about how much absolute fecal matter is thrown at Seb Coe. Coe was pretty much ceremonial during much of his tenure, as he was involved in money making ventures, called businesses. The absolute disappearance of Sergey Bubka has astounded me over the past few months. For many, Seb Coe has provided an easy punching bag, after all, he is the President of the IAAF. I still believe that Seb Coe is one of the few, if not the only person, who can lead us during this time. And more importantly, after all the above noted matter thrown at him, I believe that Lord Coe wants, more than, ever, to repair the sport.
Funds to provide the changes needed to host 2021 will be a tough battle until the end. In the end, I am sure that the needs can be covered, but it will be the confluence of state funds, private funds and university support, and athletic sweat equity to make 2021 a success.
If you think sports politics is full of intrigue, then, welcome to university politics. The University of Eugene is caught up in a loud discussion on the quality of education and how the growth of athletics (sports overall) at the University has taken from monies meant for eduction. Vinn has a long battle here, and he understands the ground war: his time at CW Post, Dartmouth, Stanford, Oberlin and Oregon have prepared him well.
I also have this sneaking feeling that the need for the IAAF to re open the 2021 bid will become louder and louder. I believe that Eugene will win a re-vote because the IAAF has been sadly lacking in the support and understanding the sport in North America. I also believe the re-vote, if needed (and I hope it is not) will go the way of Eugene because it is a fine bid.
While Nike is spoken about as the global power it is, remember that adidas is the IAAF sponsor. I do not believe that the historic brand is given much kudos for the support it has given our sport globally, and I think that has been one of the areas that IAAF must improve. adidas could be the sponsor in 2021 (contract ends in 2019, and it is not a given that Nike will just take over the IAAF sponsorship, anyone who follows sport would tell you that).
Then, my final point. To put on a world champs is a huge effort with little or no financial gain. My friends at various brands who have sponsored World Champs, US Champs, European champs, and Olympic champs tell me that the winning at that level is brand awareness. The money is huge, the time is huge and there is little or no ROI (return on investment).
This is truly for the sport.
But remember this. In the 1932 Los Angeles Coliseum, Bert and Cordner Nelson watched a magnifiscent Olympics. In 1948, they started the bible of the sport, Track & Field News.
Who knows, two sisters, two brothers, a brother and sister could watch Eugene 2021 and influence the media in our sport for the next century.
Those are the real prizes.
Vin Lananna gets that, and that is his vision.
Mike Reilly and his team at Tracktown will get it done.