On a weekend with a plethora of sporting events, including a Diamond League Meeting, the IAAF U20 World Champs, Wimbledon and the World Cup, the London Athletics World Cup put a crowd in the London Olympic Stadium that filled up half the stadium. Here’s Stuart Weir’s column, his first of three on Day one.
The inaugural Athletics World Cup was very watchable. The first evening of two day event consisted of 9 races and 8 field events and lasted just over 3 hours. The first hour consisted solely of 4 field events – triple jump, pole vault and two throws. With only 8 competitors – and only four throws or jumps, the competition was slick and great to watch. Often field events seem to be hidden away or scheduled before the crowd has arrived but tonight they seemed to be centre stage. The program ended with a 4 by 400 and a 4 by 100 relay. Shouldn’t every track meet end with a couple of exciting relays?
Then there is the London Stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Park (to give it its full name). Anyone who was in the stadium during the 2012 Olympics or the 2017 World Championships, KNOWS that the stadium was made for track and field and loves to be back in it, recalling those great days.
The format of one athlete from each of eight countries made for some unbalanced races – with an Olympic champion against someone who would struggle to get out of the prelim in some cases – but there were many exciting events. And as the event was about team points, not individual glory, moving from sixth to fourth was as valuable as going from third to first.
With only one or two events in progress most of the time, the stadium announcer was able to keep the crowd up to speed with what was happening in each of the field-events, something which frankly never happens in Diamond Leagues.
On the bus back to the hotel I sat by Holly Bradshaw. She was a real fan of the competition – well, she won so she should be pleased! She told me: “I liked it. It reminded me of when I used to represent my club Blackburn Harriers, competing for points as part of a bigger team trying to get promoted to a higher division or whatever. I was thinking the other day that it could really work well if you had, say, three division of the world cup where you could get promoted or demoted each year. Yes, I really enjoyed it tonight.
“Because there were only eight in the pole vault it moved really quickly and everyone was somehow more engrossed in it and you could focus in on the different nationalities – and I guess it was the same in the long jump and the hammer. And because it’s moving quickly it’s exciting”.
Triple jumper Nathan Douglas also found the experience promising: “I think the format was great, a good idea. The sport needs to try different things. Four rounds is quick for field-events but I think the former is perfect for this event. It’s quick and sharp and what the spectators want to see. It’s great to try something different”.
Of course there was disappointment that a number of the stellar athletes opted not to take part. But there again their absence of give others the chance to compete against Olympic champions before a sizeable crowd. Take for example Jemma Reekie, who would never have been a first choice, but who came third and tweeted afterwards: “Amazing crowd, felt at home, raced for the team, PR, medal, great team couldn’t be happier.
The inaugural Athletics World Cup was a success.