The rebidding of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials is not something that USA Track & Field or Mt.SAC envisioned. Each side has their side of the story. Suffice it to say, this is a mess. USATF sees themselves as protecting the brand and rights of the sport of track & field. Mt.SAC believes that they could have handled and were handling the lawsuits, which they saw as a nuisance. No matter whose side you favor, this is a big mess.
In that light, we at @runblogrun would like to suggest seven points to consider as the rebidding ends May 25, 2018.
1. Few cities and or, states, can hope to sponsor a U.S. Olympic Trials…
Reports are that Eugene lost money on the 2016 Olympic Trials. If Eugene can not make money, who can? Nike supported the 2008 and 2012 Trials, and 2016 Trials for that matter. Nike is a $50 billion company, but, like adidas, and other supporters of the sport, they are businesses. They must have limits to their largesse. If the city or state can not cover the Trials, then, USATF needs to figure out how to run a more modest trials in order not to put the sponsoring sites in hock.
2. Due diligence needs to be actually done on city sites…
How did the USATF board not know about the two law suits that Mt.SAC was fighting during the bidding process? There is a competition, but there is due diligence. Sounds like the due diligence was not done effectively. Was the need for the USATF Board to embarrass Vin Lananna more important than getting a site that could past muster? How could the USATF Board not know about the Mt.SAC lawsuits? The search committee will need to be much more diligent in the upcoming process.
3. With the progess of Mt.SAC on lawsuit one, and the process of lawsuit two, was the rebidding even needed?
The fine piece by Ken Stone on the story behind the rebidding suggests even more confusion than many of us even envisioned. Truth is always stranger than fiction. USATF demanded proof that the stadium would be done in time to host the Trials, for over six month before they removed the Trials from Mt.SAC. Mt.SAC assured them that the lawsuits could be handled and alternative funding was already sufficient to get the renovations done on time for the 2020 Trials. Mt.SAC has reportedly sent over $500k for a bid that they no longer have. They also owe $2.5 million more before 2020 event without hosting the Trials! That is pretty magnanimous. Who has that kind of money?
4. The process is not working for USATF championships or Trials.
Very little promotion is done for major championships. No promotions in key media for the sport. The federation and host sites just seem to expect people to show up. Eugene is a wonderful site and city, but there needs to be change every few years. The Sports commission in Sacramento did little to promote their event prior to the event, and it was evident in the hosting of the event. A new approach has to be approached. The promotions done for 2016, the treatment of media in 2016 was a let down from 2012 and 2008. There continues to be the amusing consideration that track fans will just show up each year and especially every four years.
5. The goal is to bring more fans to the sport, why not open access to Trials and nationals via free streaming, buildup programs?
The web is the future of sports. Social media broadcasts are bringing in new fans. However, the model of some video outlets, for paid coverage via streaming, is cutting down only the most interested and those with disposable income. Is paid streaming the right way for reaching out to a diverse community, which is the strength of our wonderful sport? Perhaps sponsors, for nationals and trials could support the fine jobs done by the video partners of the sport so that those events can be shown free of charge? Let’s grow the sport.
6. And finally, where is track media?
Track & Field media is dying. Literally. The lack of support of the Nationals for most newspaper groups has been a fact of life for the past six years. With the decimation of advertising for print and lack of realistic advertising in digital media, few sports writers are even out there. The challenges for media companies, like ours, to make a living, is next to impossible. At a recent world championships, a top global federation representative told assembled media that the fact was, traditional media was not needed, and in fact, post factual media organizations was where media was going. Scary.
7. Success for our sport requires support of the stakeholders, all of them (managers, athletes, coaches, federations, sponsors, media, fans) trying to work together.
These are real problems in our sport. Replace the word ‘Problems’ with ‘challenges’. All challenges are opportunities, if viewed from the right perspective. USATF board does little or nothing to educate media, or other stake holders in what is really going on with the sport. That is the USOC way, but it does not seem to be working for USATF. Perhaps it is time for another approach.