Paul Koech, Doha 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net
The sweepstakes for the 2019 World Outdoor Athletics Championships are on, and the bidders are Barcelona, Doha and Eugene.
The bids are all quite different, and Barcelona, which was the host of the 1992 Olympic Games, has the support of the LOC and government, in a country that is battling tough economic times and a separatist movement much older and stronger than what we saw in Scotland this past summer.
Doha wants the World Championships very bad. The Qatari government sees the World champs as a very reasonable way to promote their country and promote goodwill. With a new global airport being developed, and hotels going everywhere having an insane price on a cooling unit or units for the World Champs is a small price to pay for this country for global respect. Their biggest issue may be the current world stage, especially in Syria, Iran, Iraq. How many Europeans and North Americans will want to venture to Doha? The support by Qatar of the current Allied program to decimate ISIS or ISIL is a huge barometer change for Qatar (although it remains to be seen how ISIS/ISIL evolves or de-evolves).
Eugene is a curious bid. The World Junior Champs, while being hailed as a huge success, was not in any way a test for the World Championships. Open complaints on availability of an international airport, hotel rooms, and stadium seating 40,000 are only the top challenges to TrackTown USA.
The positives? Autzen Stadium, which could be retrofitted with a track to house the World Champs. A complete rebuilding of Hayward field, funded by the house that Phil Knight has built, and the absolute focus of Vinn Lananna, and the meet management savvy of Mike Reilly should not be discounted. One key observer opined that Nike was willing to spend $50 million to refit Hayward Field to make the event work. The volunteers, and the enthusiasm of the fans are key intangibles for the Eugene bid.
The intangibles? The IAAF has recently signed an extension with Dentsu as its global marketing agency. This agency is responsible for sponsorship contracts and advertising. Most of the current sponsors are Japan based sponsors, with adidas being the major European sponsor. Dentsu has not seemed to have any luck bringing in American companies into the IAAF.
For the IAAF to grow, a complete change in approach to presenting meets, athletes and our sport needs to be accomplished.
The IAAF can change. Their approach to media, social media and content has given them a website second to none in the sports federation sweepstakes. That was the result of many people and interests working together for a common goal: promoting our sport.
The lack of terrestrial television, make that free terrestrial television (where in North America, less than 1 in five Americans have access to Diamond League), hurts global athletics. Cable TV is not available to everyone. Streaming video is key for 14-29 crowd, and track meets, anytime on mobile units is key as well.
I am an optimist.
I want to see our sport grow, and see all three sites with positive reasons to host a World Championships. It is, however, important for global athletics to thrive, that a World Championships be hosted in the United States. The IAAF will have to take a deep breath and just improvise on some things, but, in the end, a World Champs in the US in the next five to six years makes a ton of sense.