Niels de Vos headed UKA for 11 years. During that time, he oversaw one of the finest periods in British Athletics. During this time, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis, among others have emerged, and two retired. London 2012 and London 2017 hosted 2 of the finest events of their caliber and British fans reminded the world that they love athletics.
During his tenure, Fast Track Agency, under Alan Pascoe and Jon Rigdeon(now CMO of IAAF) were uncerimoniously sacked as sponsor development team, and Nike contract was signed after a controversial ending of a long term adidas agreement. Niels de Vos did it, to use the line attributed to the late Frank Sinatra, “his way.”
We reached out to Niels de Vos via social media and he graciously answered the questions noted below. We thank him for his time and wish him well. While de Vos has been surrounded by sharks before, the first World Champs in U.S., and in the land the Nike built, has its own challenges.
The job of CEO is not a beauty contest. It matters little if one is well liked, one must be respected. Actually, it is much better if the CEO is feared. The job of heading a global event is fraught with land mines, and land sharks for that matter. Niels de Vos knows that he must deliver on a major event with many constituencies fighting for his time, his money and for the control of this event.
In the end, Niels de Vos was hired, because, at the end of the day, he must keep control of the event for Eugene 2021 to succeed.
runblogrun, #1: What is the biggest lesson that you have learned at the helm of UKA Athletics?
Niels de Vos, 1: The biggest lesson I learned in 10 years at UKA is that global athletics medals are the hardest individual medals to win across the entire Olympic Spectrum. Ours is a sport where the dominant nation (USA) might win the same or fewer gold medals than the dominant individual in the pool or in the velodrome.
runblogrun, #2: What is the biggest lesson that you learned from London 2012?
Niels de Vos, 2: The biggest lesson from London 2012 was how the public embraces national teams in traditionally individual sports. London 2012 created Team GB which is now one of the biggest sports brands in the UK and which has universal affection. We see a similar effect in golf with the Ryder Cup and Tennis with the Davies. Cup but nothing on the scale of the Olympics.
runblogrun, #3: What are the primary reasons behind the success of UK Athletics?
Niels de Vos, 3: The three primary reasons behind UK Athletics success were 1. Better use of lottery funding to focus on genuine medal prospects. 2. The existence of a core of superstars who could be relied upon to medal at every championship, every year. 3. excellent performance and team management staff to get the very best results from the talent we have available.
runblogrun, #4: What were the 3 biggest of challenges in regards to London 2017?
Niels de Vos, 4: The three biggest challenges for 2017 were. 1. Putting on both the IPC and the IAAF world championships back to back when both were bigger than the para athletic and athletic complements of London 2012. 2. Dealing with the challenges of staging the event in a stadium that we could not access until late May due to the football tenancy. 3. Being responsible for both the UK team performance and the event (as CEO of UKA and of London 2017).
runblogrun, #5: Give us the three biggest challenges of Eugene 2021, as you see them?
Niels de Vos, 5: The 3 biggest challenges for Eugene 2021. Probably too early to say but first impressions would be 1. Scale – the stadium and its campus environment are not built for an event of this size and logistical impact. 2. Profile. The sport will need to work really hard, with all its stakeholders, to ensure the event cuts through in the mainstream US Sports market. 3. Timtabling – finding the optimum schedule to satisfy the lived audience and the global TV market. An 8pm track final here will be bedtime on the east coast, And 4am in London.
runblogrun, #6: Have you moved to Eugene, as of yet?
Niels de Vos, 6: I am renting a place in Eugene, a 10 minute jog from where the magnificent Hayward Field is emerging.
runblogrun, #7: Any final thoughts on this first interview?
Niels de Vos, 7: It is worth saying that I have massive optimism for Eugene 21. The stadium will be stunning, the sessions will be packed with fans who will be the most knowledgable ever assembled, and the event is being created with the athletes at the epicentre – my mantra is ‘for the tracksuits not for the suits’. The opportunity for Track and Field to use Oregon 21 to reclaim its status as a premier US sport, and to maintain that staus through to LA 28 and beyond, is a fantastic proposition and a prize that everyone who loves track and field must be excited about.