The Golden League is the six major meets in Europe: Oslo, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Brussels and Stuttgart. The deal is, if you win all six of your events, you get one million dollars! The idea is to promote the highest level of competition. Does it? This writer suggests that competition has been an afterthought, but with the Worlds this year, and the level of the sport, the Golden League should have some great competitons this summer.
The Golden League in past years has been built around the middle distance races, more the chasing of middle and long distance records. In Oslo this season, Meseret Defar’s fantastic 5,000 meter record of 14:16 was the highlight of a meet devoid of stars.
Gaz de France, in St.Denis, France is just the opposite and an example of what a major meet in Europe should be; Tirunesh Dibaba going for a fast 5,000 meters, Mehdi Baala, Bernard Lagat, Alan Webb and Ali Kaouch in the men’s 1,500 meters, Xiang Liu in the 110m hurdles. 70,000 French track fans cheering on Mehdi Baala, the fastest 1,500 meter runner in the world this year (3:31.05).
Fans have been following Webb’s wins in North America, and his 800 meter PB in Malmo, and Baala running 3;31.05 in Strassbourg. There is anticipation for Gaz de France, because of the…competition!
For many years, the best track meets, the most competitive meets were in Europe, that was until the elite spring season developed in the U.S. Now, with the adidas Track Classic, Reebok Grand Prix and the Nike Prefontaine, there are three early season, well funded meets in North America.
To put on a great meet, one must have strong sponsorship, and that brings in top athletes, great competition, good fans, media attention and television.
In the past, the Golden League was known more for chasing fast times and records, with middle distance races set up for the various stars of the sport.
Gaz de France should be one of the best meets of the year, as it has real competition â€” in the 110 hurdles, at 5,000 meters for women, and at the 1,500 meters for men. Crowds like records, but we rely on records too much, and a fast, close 1,500 meters will do more to sell the sport than an antiseptic paced record. Isinbayeva will always be a star in this series of meets, but now she has some competiton from Jenn Stuczynski, who set two ARs in May and June.
You have to hand it to the IAAF, as they are pushing the media opps, from English radio on the web, to broadband, to coverage of the meets on Versus in the US-the former Outdoor Life Network.
While the million dollar prize purse is a bit dated, what is happening is that the six meets this summer, the three before the Worlds and the three after, will be great competitions, where, in all events, to win, one must be at the top of their game. Competition comes to the forefront again, and track and field is back!
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