I have loved our sport of athletics for some thirty-five years. I ran my first race in 1972 as a freshman for De Smet Jesuit High School in Creve Coeur, Missouri and as an athlete, coach, and magazine publisher, and now, blogger, I have never found anything in sports that compares with the excitement of head to head competition.
I was reminded of this at both Osaka in 2007, and Beijing in 2008, when, amidst the heat and humidity, the competition shone through!
What has disheartened me is how, in most human endeavors, the ability to look at the bigger picture is lost, and infighting destroys many a great idea or project. The theme of the Diamond League is that, despite the normal difficulties of disparate meetings, agents, meet directors and such, the real story is that, the Diamond League shows that difficulties can be overcome….
In the end, our sport is all about the competition!
In speaking to people close to the organization, and people who have been involved at all levels of the new organization, one thing became quite clear, somehow, twelve plus athletics meetings, many agents, meet directors, footwear companies, athletes, media companies, USATF and the IAAF all took a hard look at what the Diamond League brings to the table-and supported it.
The Diamond League will give us twelve to fifteen global events, televised on a single global feed, around the world, featuring athletes in all 32 disciplines, with sixteen events, on the average, at a given meeting. (It should be noted that a World Hammer Challenge will be held in markets where the IAAF sees the hammer throw as being appreciated. )
The power and stature of IMG, with former Nike Global Sports Marketing director, Ian Todd, should help in making the television venture a strong success even in this marketplace. The ability to bring in top athletes in all of the events, as well as global stars will also make the events easier to market and make a stronger relationship between sports fan and event! Sports fans love close races and tight competitions! Bringing the likes of Dayron Robles, Lui Xiang, Terrance Trammel, for example, into hurdle races, promotes not only the 110m high hurdles, but also the sport of athletics.
The support of USATF’s new CEO Doug Logan and new president, Stephanie Hightower, also gets kudos. President Lamine Diack of the IAAF now has his dream of a global athletics series, showcasing the competition in our sport that Diack has stated, again and again, is at the heart of our sport’s global promise.
What I liked most about the release and the comments by both the IAAF and Mark Wetmore in the Global Athletics conference on Monday was the return to classic track & field. That, in my mind, has what has been missing from the sport. Competitions, over a several month period, betwen the major players in each event build up excitement for championships as well!
In the U.S., that the Reebok New York Grand Prix and the Nike Prefontaine Classic show that two of our major meets, one on the East Coast and one on the West, show that the U.S. will do more than supply half of the elite athletes in these events around the world! The U.S. will have two events as part of this global showcase of athletics.
I have been a strong proponent of the World Marathon Majors, which, I believe has given marathon racing a good start from which the sport can be promoted. I see the Diamond League as a further stepping stone in the professionalization of global athletics and an increase in the chance that we, in this sport, can see more of the global marketing dollars that continue to be spent, even in this difficult economic season.
Fans of the hurdles, shot, pole vault, middle distances, distances will be happy to know that they will see more guaranteed competitions of a world class nature-not just rabbits and a crowd going for fast times. There will be fast races and there will be very, very competitive races!
So, bravo to the meet directors, agents, athletes and footwear brands who took a long term view of the sport and saw the Diamond League as real progress. Kudos to USATF and IAAF for embracing such historic change, and thanks to the organizers for having the focus and drive to provide a new and exciting approach to globalizing our classic sport of track & field!
For more on the sport, click http://www.usatf.org and http://www.iaaf.org.
For more on our grass roots approach to the sport, please click http://www.american-trackandfield.com
As always, my hat is off to PhotoRun.net, who supplies us with a plethora of
athletics photos from around the sport galaxy.