Let’s face it, the World Championships saved the sport of track and field. With the boycotts of 76 and 80, 1983 was the best track and field meet of that generation. As the 1984 Olympics, in all of its exuberance and fanfare, put the Olympics back on track, the World Championships put track and field in the spotlight. But now, in 2007, is there too much of a good thing?
I have been travelling, watching elite track meets since last January. Do not get me wrong, I love our sport and there is still nothing more thrilling than watching a great competition, but are we killing our sport and retiring our athletes early in the process?
In 2004, there was the Olympics, 2005, Worlds, 2006, Euros and Commonwealth, 2007 Worlds, 2008 Olympics, 2009 Worlds-that did not count 2003 and the Worlds then. The only off year will be 2010. That is one heck of a long time for championships and it twice as long as most elite athletes’ careers!
As track and field has become more of a global sport, and as the IAAF has developed its presense globally, the World Championships have taken on even greater stature. But look at the performances after Osaka, most of the athletes were exhausted. To have to deal with Golden League, then World Athletics Finals afterwards? How does an athlete keep up?
Perhaps we need to look at a shorter, more intense elite season globally, and in years with World Champs, no World Athletics Finals. It has to be hard for sponsors to get a message out with such a convoluted schedule, and the long season, nearly ten months from the first IAAF Permit Meeting last December until now, in mid September, is just too long and exhausting for an athlete to compete and do well.
TV does want more content, and through TV, broadband and I pod broadcasts, track and field will flourish. However, mediocre performances and races where there is no competition do little for the sport.
A tighter, better run season, plus less championships, with more meaning would bring more coverage and interest to the sport of track and field. It is time we looked at our schedule and focused the schedule and level of competition to show off the true spectacle of our sport. Without great competition, there is no sport. Exhausted athletes do not compete well.