On the future of Olympic Track & Field, by Elliott Denman

When Elliott Denman heard the cyclical rumor that the IOC wants to make the Olympics more attractive to younger sports fans, and that could include the cutting of many events that Elliott holds dear to his heart. 

Tokyo 2020 proposed stadium

While I have been told that the IOC is not looking to cut track and field events from their wonderful schedule, I felt that Elliott Denman's piece was worthy of reading. 

   Was anyone paying attention?

   Did anyone happen to notice that London Olympic Stadium was  jammed to its 80,000-seat capacity twice a day for nine straight days, August 3 to 11, 2012?

    Did anyone happen to note the activity going in that building, the centerpiece of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, during that stretch?

    Does anyone happen to recall that it was track and field (to North Americans); Athletics (to the rest of the planet), that sold all those tickets, that lured all that humanity to the action, there to be enthralled by the goings-on, to be stirred by the riveting events taking place before their eyes?

    In case not, let this serve as your reminder.

   And a reminder not just to the fans who enjoyed every moment of their Olympic-watching experience but to the ladies and gentlemen entrusted with the critical job of determining the content of future Olympic Games.

    These days, the spotlight is shining down on these individuals - members of the International Olympic Committee - with ever-greater intensity as they mull their critical decisions.   As they mull, it is said, they're also under pressure to cull.

      Oh yes, the "modernists" are at it again, the "reformers" at work, the what-have-you-done-for-me lately bunch  playing ever more active roles.

   And what are they telling us?

   (a) That 80,000 X 2 x 8 is a multiple that doesn't compute.

   (b) That 10,000 (the athlete participation limit they'd like to impose on future Olympic Games) is a better number than 10,568 (the London figure), which actually was a reduction on Beijing 2008 (10,942), Athens 2004 (10,625) and Sydney 2000 (10,651.)

  (c) Despite all the numbers in the stands, they still are intent on decreasing the numbers on the field.

  (d) And just why, tell me,  this call to cull?  So they can put golf (which surely doesn't need the Olympics) and rugby back in the Games, so they can bring in X-Games-style events that the kids love but are hardly relevant, and who knows what else?   Karaoke? Tango? Poker? Monopoly? Hot Dog Eating?   

    Crazy-man-crazy, that's all that it is.

    Rumors currently floating around indicate that The Lords of the Rings have actually discussed chopping big chunks out of the current Olympic track and field program.

The whispers have mentioned the 200 meters, the triple jump, the shot put, the 10,000-meter run, the 20K racewalk.

   Where in the world is that coming from?

    Take away the half-lap? And with it perhaps the someday chance of seeing a human (named Bolt or otherwise) crossing the finish line in less than 19 seconds?

   Oust the triple jump?   Three times the fun of the long jump, the very first event of the very first Modern Olympic Games (won by James Connolly), as the universe awaits its second 60-footer?

   Pull out the shot putters?  Relegate the folks who delivered the thrills at Ancient Olympia (2000) and continue to muscle their way into the spotlight?

   Scratch the 10,000 meters?  Okay, 25 laps is a long grind.  So turn it into a road race and bring it to the citizenry-at-large.

   Paddle the 20K walk off the program?  Are you kidding me?  And cause immediate uproar from Tijuana south to Cape Horn?  And tell the fittest practitioners of the world's most universal form of exercise to take a hike in another direction.

  Hate it - hate it - hate it, every time these chop-the-heart-out-of-the-flagship-sport-of-the-Olympic Games  deep thinkers go to work.

    And I hate it even more this time.

   It's roils my insides, gets me fuming, and then wondering why so many
cannot think this one through to the obviously right answers.

     They refuse to realize - in this personal view - that every single current event in Olympic track and field/athletics deserves to be given "sacrosanct" status
now and forever.   And the ladies and gentlemen of the IAAF must make it their sacred duty to assure this.

   These past several weeks in America - and beyond - have seen an array of protesters activated over a myriad of issues.  

   Well, this Olympic matter should be a civil rights issue, too.

   IAAFers - do your thing, stand your ground - do not let the IOC trample the civil rights of the athletes you are pledged to support.

   No culling.  Repeat, no culling. No, no, no.

   Fact is, the 24 current Olympic events for men and 23 for women should be expanded to 24 and 24.  Yes, by adding the 50K walk for women.  Equality all the way.

   OK, if I was a Lord of the Rings, I would allow some degree of fine tuning.

    I'd change the women's heptathlon to a full decathlon.

    As mentioned previously, I'd let the track 10,000 meters evolve into the road 10K.

    And a few more items.

   Maybe (thanks to now-available technology) measure the horizontal jumps from point of takeoff (saying goodbye to fouls) to point of landing.  Or even high jump and pole vault over a laser beam, rather than a crossbar.

      Maybe toss out relay-race exchange zones.  What purpose do they serve anyway?  Just get the baton around the track, baby.

   Oh, on the issue of the Olympic Village F.T.B. (fill to bursting.) The obvious answer is a change in the Olympic Charter now limiting Winter Olympic Games events to those staged on snow or ice.  Any number of indoor Olympic sports could easily be switched from Summer Games to Winter Games, to the benefit of both.  

   And that could open the door to cross country running's return to the Games.  Want a compromise?  Run it over a lightly-snowed trail.

    Both Summer and Winter Games occupy 16-day schedules, over three weekendsIf the Summer Games are over-populated, the Winter Games are surely under-populated.  Makes sense from this vantage point.

    To all of the above, why-why-why not?

   Yes, indeed, display ever-greater vigilance in the war on drugs.

   Those caught - and determined to be intentional violators - exile them from the Games forever.

   Those caught up in inadvertent-use situations?  Well, show them a bit of mercy and let 'em back in only after a period of appropriate penance - whatever International Pharmaceutical Court determines that to be.

   And punish the enablers as heavily as the users.

   Lord Coe is seemingly destined to be the next chieftain of the
IAAF, so it would be his role to get all this done.

    If the scenario evolves that way, the future of the "flagship" sport would be in the steady, capable hands of a proven leader.

   It's he, Seb, who after all, worked the wonders that won London  the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games in the first place.

   And it's he whose smile stretched from Elephant and Castle to St. Pancras Station at the sight of those 80,000 filing into Olympic Stadium twice daily for those eight glorious days.

  To paraphrase those who sometimes were less than fully appreciative of my own event - it's time the would-be cullers took a 50-kilometer walk on a 49-kilometer pier.

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