The Beijing Diaries will be my daily column on all things about being in Beijing for two weeks. I hope you enjoy it.
My Beijing Diary, Day One
August 17, 2015
I am about three hours into my 12 1/2 hour flight from San Francisco
to Beijing, China, and I am bored silly.
United airlines, in their continuing approach to annoy everyone but
the folks who can pay for first class, have provided a stupifying
program of dull media options. With no wifi (China does not have
enough satellites as one gets into their airspace, hence, one is
back in the 1990s, wondering what is really go on on the planet).
United’s video options are pretty much dumbed down in coach, so
I pull out my recent read, The Guns of August, a book on the early
days of World War One. I wonder, as I read this, if there will be
someone as profound as Barbara Tuchman, one of our countries finest
historians, to write about the tomfoolery we call global politics
and national politics that goes on now in forty years. One wonders
if there will be anyone to read it, considering how close we are
(less that five minutes) to the Doomsday Clock.
I need a snack.
Now, after such positive and thoughtful considerations, I am
beginning my Beijing Diary for the World Championships. This
is my second Beijing Diary, as the first came in 2008, at the
suggestion of the late James Dunaway, our long time editor and
grammarian at American Track & Field. James died this past
February and I continue to grieve him. Opinionated,
ascerbic, with a heart of gold, James Dunaway wrote and opined
on the sport he loved for nearly sixty years. He lives on in
the writers and media he supported and influenced.
The World Champs comes at a tumultuous time in our sport. With
accusations of leaked this, leaked that, and more dirt each
day on the sport, some have now gone to the point trying to
compare which sport is dirtier, cycling or track and field?
The federation is dealing with the last days of Lamine Diack,
a man who truly brought the continent of Africa into the sport.
But, I am afraid, his tenture will be remembered as a example
of someone who stayed in their position too long, and in that
time, when his tenure has been on auto pilot, greed and such
have been allowed to dirty our sport.
I have watched several federations in the US, and abroad, and
my theory is this: put a group in charge of anything, and it
is hard for them not to become dysfunctional. Money does not
take care of all problems, but having money can help minimize
some problems. It can also increase others.
The Nick Symmonds affair is problematic. One one side, many see
the problems inherent in USATF’s newfound riches, but also, one
might also not understand how Symmonds, who has won a World
Champs medal, would give up a chance on the global stage to perform.
But then, perform he did. By taking his stand, Nick Symmonds brought
more pressure on USATF, and more promotional value to his business concerns,
himself and his sponsors, than if he would have not got out of the semi finals
or finished sixth in the final in Beijing.
We never will know. Symmonds may be the most astute self promoter in our
sport. His stand has put heat on USATF and they will have to respond.
The IAAF drug testing system is in need of an overhaul. That has to be said.
The perception, that an in house drug testing program, which has had accusations
of bribes taken, countries not given equal testing, and the recent leaked
and confusing testing protocals beg the question: what the hell is going on?
I do not care who is dirtier, cycling or athletics? Crap is crap. Athletics
is held to a higher standard, and leadership needs to understand that or
I can not keep up with who said what, who denied what, and which response from
the IAAF I have not read yet. Does this look like a very lucrative power play
by certain organizations? Could be.
But, at the very least, learn from Craig Masback, when he was CEO at
USA Track & Field. Masback got USATF out of the drug testing business.
IAAF needs to get out of it completely, and let the chips fall where
As my eye lids get heavy, and there are still 6,238 kilometers to go, as we fly
through the air, 32,772 feet in the air, and 7 hours, 44 minutes left in this
wonderful flight, it is time to sleep.
We are just over western Alaska, and I need to sleep.
Thanks for reading Beijing Diary 2015, Day one.