2018 Berlin Diary: How does one truly change athletics: Some deep thoughts from Michael Johnson, extract from London Times Interview (4 August 2018)


In the hours before the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the quotes from Michael Johnson's interview in the Sunday Times magazine, which were found by our friend, Stuart Weir, make sense.

Michael Johnson makes it clear that, for the sport to not be the little fiefdom it currently is, drastic change will be needed.

I think he should be heard out.

In my mind, the kernal, the essence of the sport is what people want. How do we capture that? We have build such expensive monstrosities that it becomes very hard to replicate.

I love championships, they are my favorite events to attend. But how do we allow the sport to grow?

Micheal currently does commentating for BBC Sports at the major events, such as Commonwealth Games, European Championships, World Championships and Olympics. His comments are biting, but, in my estimation, honest. I wish he would be used on U.S. television, but such is not the case.

Johnson-Hart-MJInvit05.jpgMichael Johnson, Coach Clyde Hart, 2005, photo by PhotoRun.net

Extract from an interview with Michael Johnson in the [London] Sunday Times Magazine 4 August 2018

Comparison of football and athletics

"[In football] Everybody runs around on pitches doing the same thing: trying to put the ball in the goal. Athletics is what? Lots of different things. In some cases completely unrelated. That's a very difficult sport to market. You've got the fastest humans in the world; you have people who are trying to throw a spear as far as they can; you've got people who are trying to throw something called a hammer that doesn't look like a hammer. You have jumpers trying to jump as far as or as high as they can. In football all the eyes in the stadium are on that guy with the ball. In athletics, all the eyes can be on a number of different places at one time.

"The only ideas [for change] that are coming up, with all these attempts at innovation, are: 'Let's make it a new sport', 'Let's make athletics a team sport', or a 'Let's make athletics a country against country sport'. No one's saying, 'Let's maybe minimize the number of events that are taking place in an athletics meeting'".

Johnson suggested conducting research on what people want to watch: "Not track fans, but people generally. Do people really, today in 2018, want to see six or seven different events? Is that really sustainable?"

"if I were running the IAAF, and the research told me that 200 metres was not something that people want to watch, it would be gone. That's my attempt and I love the event but it's not about what I love.."

To read the interview in its original form, please go to; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/michael-johnson-on-whats-wrong-with-athletics-hz3xjw287

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