Even for a sport that considers itself the oldest in the world, 2021 has been a year of the ages for world athletics.
A group of charismatic young stars who broke world records produced an Olympic Games in Tokyo that deserved a comparison with the gold standard of the Olympic Games, the 1968 Games in Mexico City, which were immortalized by an iconic American team and courageous and the launch of Kenya’s long distance runner dynasty.
American hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, shot putter Ryan Crouser, long distance runner Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands, Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah, pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis from Sweden and Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm helped athletics to regain its place at the Summer Olympics. ‘leading sport according to a series of marketing, broadcast and social media measures in addition to the group’s record performance.
“This is the golden generation,” said Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, the international athletics governing body. “I have never been so optimistic about the strength and scale of what is happening in our sport. ”
This talent offers World Athletics, Coe said, both “a challenge and an opportunity” as the sport looks to the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Ore. In July, the first time that an event has only surpassed it. by the Olympics and the World Cup in importance will be held on American soil.
The success of the World Championships at Hayward Field, as well as the breadth and depth of the event’s legacy, said Coe, are not only critical in growing the sport’s footprint in the United States, but also in developing sport internationally.
“I want all of our member federations to recognize that it’s not just isolated championships, you know, and then we move on to another city,” said Coe, two-time Olympic 1500m champion for Great Britain. , in a press release. interview Friday with the Orange County Register, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. “There are opportunities here that we cannot pass up.”
The Worlds, Commonwealth Games and European Championships fill a 2022 summer left vacant by the World Cup, which was moved to November and December due to high temperatures in host country Qatar. Next summer, followed by the 2023 Worlds in Budapest, the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and another 2025 Worlds in a location yet to be determined, gives sport an unprecedented opportunity to make itself known.
“The opportunity that is created is that really for the next four years we have athletics center stage in the most broadcastable part of the year, and if I get past four I can probably say that for seven years, and this is an opportunity we should not waste, ”Coe said.
Topping the list are the World Championships (July 15-24) in the college town of Willamette Valley which for decades called itself “Tracktown, USA”.
“On the opportunities we must not waste, Eugene, Oregon, next year is a huge time for us and we absolutely need to be aware of it,” said Coe, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee and president of the organization of the London Olympic Games in 2012. Committee.
“Every sport wants to enter the United States,” Coe continued. “It’s still the most powerful sports marketing environment. Every Member Federation I sit with is doing everything they can to get into the United States and for good reason. We have this opportunity this year. I see it as one track until 2028 and in layman’s terms, we must do all we can to create a greater perception and penetration of athletics not only in the United States but around the world.
“But if you create that in the United States, which is still the powerhouse of athletics, but perversely, you still have athletes known around the world but who can still walk through their own cities in anonymity. We have a really important role and job to play here, and in my last communication to member federations at the end of the year, I spoke about the importance for all of us to make the most of Oregon ‘ 22.
Coe, a former Nike global ambassador, acknowledged the argument that if athletics is to truly leave a meaningful footprint in the United States, it must increase its presence in major American cities, particularly New York and Los Angeles, the two of the biggest media markets.
Nike, USA Track & Field’s main funder, was co-founded by legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman and former Duck miler Phil Knight. The company and by extension Eugene got American sport through rough times, particularly the late 80s and 90s. But many wondered if the American track had become too tied to Nike and Tracktown?
Eugene has hosted the last four Olympic Trials, eight of the last 12 NCAA Outdoor Championships. In 2022, a rebuilt and deceived Hayward Field, the $ 200 million home Uncle Phil built, will host the World Championships, NCAA and US Track and Field Championships, as well as the Prefontaine Classic. , the first one-day world meeting and the only American stop on the Diamond League calendar.
So how does the sport develop in the United States if every major national competition takes place within the friendly confines of Hayward Field?
“It’s a challenge and you are absolutely right,” Coe said. “I wish we had been given more options around other American cities that came to the table. We did not and it is USA Track & Field that must make this judgment. I think there are areas where we have helped.
Coe said his organization sees the World Championships not as a 10-day competition but as a long-term development project.
“I want World Athletics to have a project mentality towards this event…” he said. “Listen, it’s important to build that footprint in the United States. so it will help us to develop the sport globally.
This marketing will be centered on a group of athletes, many of whom are only just entering their prime, who have already shown, Coe said, “breathtaking” performances.
“We have a great opportunity with (American) and international athletes to help us get this message across,” he said. “So yes, we also have a responsibility to them to make sure that, as much as possible, we go global.”
Coe is one of only two men in history, and the only one since World War I, to have successfully defended the 1500 Olympic gold medal. Coe’s two triumphs were against a backdrop of boycotts, denial of Jimmy Carter to let American athletes compete in Moscow in 1980 due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Eastern Bloc countries that skipped the Los Angeles Games four years later.
“Tit for tat in ’84,” Coe said.
Coe has rejected calls to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing next February over China’s human rights abuses and the handling of protests in Hong Kong. The Biden administration has said it will not send diplomats or other high-ranking officials to the Beijing Games.
The Diamond League will host two meetings in China this summer. Nanjing to host 2023 World Indoor Championships
“I’m comfortable hosting our events there,” Coe said.
“There is no ambiguity in my beliefs about this,” Coe said. “I believe in two things: sport is the most powerful social worker we have in all of our communities. Absoutely. It does this 24/7. It does this more efficiently than any other activity. My second conviction is that, well used, he is also the most skilful of international diplomats. I have seen this over and over again.
“Boycotts are historically illiterate and intellectually dishonest. The only people they hurt are the athletes. They are asking sport to do the heavy lifting the government should be doing and diplomatic boycotts are meaningless gesture. So I’m happy to have recorded it.
Coe said he worked with human rights groups as head of the London Olympics organizing committee and used his organization’s influence over working conditions in negotiations with local organizers and government officials from countries hosting world athletics events.
“But I am not forgetting, neither sport, nor the realities of the globalization of sport and the struggle against cultural, social and political difficulties and challenges,” said Coe, MP for the Conservative Party in the 1990s. “He shouldn’t hesitate to point out these shortcomings either. But I would say that as a federation president and also government minister for a while, I have much more intransigent conversations with sports organizations and governments around the world about what I expect in terms of football rights. the man and working conditions around building our sites that I would never have had as a politician or minister who normally seeks trade deals. So I tend to think that sport is an amplifier of these problems.
“I live in a practical world, where negotiation and discussion take place at all levels. Rarely have I seen this pay off if you lift the drawbridge and make a good decision that we can have our bilateral deals and call to sit still in intergovernmental conversations, but when it comes to sport we don’t. let’s not dance. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
“This is not at the same time condoning human rights violations in any way, but sport is not the international panacea. It cannot do the heavy lifting that governments often avoid, and it should not no longer be used as the fruit at hand to make meaningless gestures. ”