As we approach another World Championships I am once again struck by the fact that it will not be in the United States. Nor are we among the nations that are preparing bids to host any of the upcoming editions of the world’s biggest track and field event. Once again demonstrating that we have a big black hole in this country when it comes to hosting competitions outside of your standard “relay” meet.
Don’t get me wrong, we do have Track Town USA. The Oregon burb of Eugene that is host to one of the world’s top meets in the Prefontaine Classic – one of the best meets in the Diamond League since it joined the fray. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for Eugene we might not have any presence when it comes to major meets, because quite frankly the New York meet has been up and down.
Eugene has certainly earned it’s moniker of Track Town being a regular host of the Olympic Trials, National Championships and NCAA meets in addition to “Pre”. Thank goodness that Nike has proven to be a good corporate citizen and taken Eugene under it’s financial wing.
That said, if we are going to get back to a position of prominence on a global level, we need to preserve and promote Eugene, but at the same time develop a collection of international meets and a center for potential “global” meets such as the Olympics and World Championships.
While Eugene is Track Town USA, I think that the potential “center” of the sport in the US lies in California. After all, historically California has been a leader in track and field in this country. From production of athletes to hosting of events, California has a rich history in the sport:
- Los Angeles has hosted two Olympic Games.
- Los Angeles, Norwalk, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Sacramento have all played host to the National Championships.
- Los Angeles and Sacramento have played host to the Olympic Trials.
- Highly successful international level meets have been held in Los Angeles, San Diego, Palo Alto, San Jose, Fresno, Berkeley, Sacramento and Modesto. Everything from the Fresno and Modesto Relays, to the Jack in the Box, Bruce Jenner, Kinney and Pepsi Invitationals, and East Germany v USA and USSR v USA dual meet competitions.
- Great weather
- Great facilitates via a plethora of major colleges (starting with UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal of the Pac10).
- Facilities in cities with access to major transportation and housing.
- Facilities in cities in and near entertainment centers and travel centric type activities.
- A great fan base.
As Eugene is Track Town USA, California has proven that it can be Track Central USA – something desperately needed here in the U.S. USATF needs to get back to the business of building the infrastructure of the sport in this country. We need to stop losing meets – like we did with this year’s West Coast Relays – and reinvest in developing meets, training centers, and ultimately a host location for the World Championships.
California is the place to begin as it already has the necessary base from which to build.
Our global footprint on the sport is rapidly diminishing. We have the world’s deepest and strongest team, yet our best athletes go elsewhere to ply their trade because they can’t do so at home. In terms of global economics it’s the equivalent of having to outsource our jobs to other countries because we lack the facilities here at home – and complain because all our jobs are going overseas!
Japan has been wracked with devastation via earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent threat from a broken Nuclear plant – but is putting together a bid for the 2020 Olympics. Yet in a country rich in facilities we can’t find the where with all to renovate one to meet the standards needed to host a World Championships!
I’m going to get back to preparing to watch the World Championships. I implore USATF to make preparing to host one a major priority. Because in the process of preparing to host one, it will have to work on rebuilding the infrastructure of the sport in this country. I suggest you look to California as it will take less work to achieve that goal.