I was fortunate to travel to all six IAAF World Indoor Tour meets this season, thanks to the sponsorship of Nike and USATF. We called it Le Tour de Larry and did Facebook, twitter and Instagram coverage, plus podcasts, audio and video interviews on each meet. The meets were a blast and the athletes enjoyed the events as well. Each event had a story to tell. Unfortunately, each meet also had less and less media. There is always some loyal, local media, and besides the IAAF team, RunBlogRun was only presense at each event.
From my rarefied view, I believe that there is much positive in the sport. Each meet had fine events and good fan support. The access to streaming video is enlarging the fan universe, and strong media coverage is key to building the sport.
Here are, event by event, six lessons that I learned on the tour.
1. NB Boston: Find what is authentic!
The miles, both elite mens and elite womens and the Junior miles kept the fans excited. In Boston, it is all about the middle distances, and the stars of the sport collided. The final events, the mens’ 3000m, and the women’s 500m were perfection. While Sydney McLaughlin was not focused on the indoor season, her win, plus her 90 minutes of autograph signing and selfie taking showed NB that their investment in this young superstar is well spent. Stay at Lenox or Charlesmark hotels. Like hummus? You must go to Cafe Jaffe, off Boylston by Hynes Expo center.
2. Meeting Indoor Karlsruhe: Engage the fans!
At the Messe Karlsruhe, the nearly five thorrusand fans were engaged for the three hours! The streaming video brought in a youthful global audience, as did the German broadcast. The women’s pole vault engaged the fans on one side of the track as Naota Tobe and Wang Yu battled for HJ supremacy. The fans loved that Alysha Newman, Katie Nageotte and Azhelika Siderova battled in the pole vault ans Tobe and Yu battled at 2.35m, the world leader. The final event, the women’s 3000m, had Alina Reh, the young German star, delight the crowd with her brave running! Kris Temple and Jenny Meadows did a fine job on the IAAF streaming video (you can still watch the streaming on You Tube!). Staff at Radison Blu in Erdingen is wonderful.
3. Copernicus Cup: All meets are local meets!
The arena in Torun, Poland, a city of 225,000 is excellent. It is the 200m Mondo track from Sopot 2014. Each event had Polish athletes, and the stars of Berlin 2018 were mostly there. The men’s PV had 2 strong Polish men who had the fans going nuts. The key events were the Men’s 1,500m where European champ Marcin Lewandowski set a NR at 1,500m. For the five thousand fans, the final event, with Ewa Swoboda, taking the 60m, just like she had in Lodz the night before. This will be the site for 2021 European Indoors and you know who will be there! Stayed at Hotel Nicolaus-excellent and quite reasonable, and Kabab shop across street open until 2 am! City of Torun is all about Nicolaus Copernicus, a beautiful walk in the Old City.
4. Meeting Madrid-Athletes feed off the enthusiasm of the fans!
What was it about the Meeting Indoor Madrid? The host space was miniscule. The track, a 200m banked, barely fit in the space, and the crowd of 2000 plus was packed in. But, they were the loudest on the circuit! In the media seats, I watched the pole vault and jump coaches cajoling their athletes to perform, and they did! The intimate setting had me enthralled with the 400 meters, 200 meters, and 60m flat and 60m hurdles! Big men’s shot put, and the 3 ring circus reminded me that athletes is the three rings of entertainment that can, when done well, capture our imagination. It was also the site where I interviewed Mike Rodgers, one of my favorite interviews ever! Madrid has grown on me. I expect it had a modest budget, but they filled in the budget with enthusiasm. Tori Franklin’s 14.57m AR in a tremendous Triple jump competition, gave her second! Anzehlika Siderova’s 4.91m leader was exciting, especially in the intimate surroundings in Madrid.r
5. Muller Indoor GP Birmingham: Let the fans leave on a high note!
The Muller Indoor GP Birmingham is like home to me. Ian Stewart brought me there about 2006. I was fascinated with the fields, the production and the enthusaism of the crowds. I learned to respect how Mr. Stewart (and now, Spencer Barden) crafted the fields, with fastest athletes, top Brits, top and emerging Americans and the final events, to remind the British fans about what great athletics would happen the next summer. In 2019, the final two events were, well, mesmerizing. The two finest milers in the world, Yomif Kejelcha and Samuel Tefera dueled until Tefera madly charged to victory less than 150 meters from the finish! How do you top that? Well, Laura Muir did just that! With her 4:01.83 and 4:18.75 1,500m/mile, Muir showed why she is the queen of athletics in all of GBR.
6. PSD Bank Meeting Dusseldorf: It is all about the competition!
The Dusseldorf meet had some key events, and the final two, the men’s 1,500m and the women’s 60 meters, blew everyone’s minds! Marie Jose Ta Lou, the sprinter from the Cote D’Ivoire, blew by Ewa Swoboda, winning in 7.02 to 7.08. Marie Jose Ta Lou was awesome, and she was, speechless in my interview. The 1,500m men had the two top teenagers, Samuel Tefera and Jakub Ingebrigtssen, battle it out. Ingebrigtssen made the hunter (Tefera) change roles and become the hunted. Jakub caught Samuel at 1400m and his swift kick took the win, plus an NR and U20 Euro record. The meet finished with a fine HJ battle between Naota Tobe and Wang Yu, who set a 2.34m NR for China. The level of competition was very high at Dusseldorf, my only misgivings were with the handling of the 60m Men’s hurdles.