The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Is London 2017 a Game Changer?

Nov 15th, 2011
4:48 pm PST

This week the IAAF announcedthat London will be host to the 2017 edition of the World Track and Field Championships. Interestingly enough, they will follow Beijing who will host in 2015, just as they follow Beijing as host of the Olympic Games (2008).

So the question I’m asking myself today is: does this change the dynamics of bidding to host the World Championships? Or phrased another way, will we see more pairings of the Games’ host following up by playing host to the World Championships – a “legacy” to further the use of stadia built in the construction of the Olympic facilities?

I actually rather like the idea, if that indeed is a “trend” going forward. I mean, it would have been great to have had Atlanta’s Olympic stadium/track preserved and the facility used to host say, the 1999 World Championships – no offense to Seville. It would have given the U.S. it’s first hosting of the global track championships, AND it would have provided us with a much needed track and field facility to use for other events such as Olympic Trials; NCAA Championships; another bid for a World Championships; and perhaps another Diamond League or Euro Circuit meet! All of which would have come “free of charge” via the Olympic construction of the site. Instead here we sit with nothing left from the construction of Atlanta save our memories of the event – and Centennial Olympic Park – nice, but not much of an athletics legacy from the world’s greatest athletic event.

I also like the idea from the standpoint of another suggestionI had earlier this year – reverting back to a four year cycle for the World Championships. If we were to have Worlds in the two year cycle between the Games – leaving a year gap both before and after – it would leave our athletes with a major championship to prepare for every two years. Which, given the stress and strain we are seeing affect our athletes would be just about right from the standpoint of ensuring that each competition would be populated with a healthy dose of the best the world has to offer.

In that scenario, simply following up the Olympics with the same site for the World Championships two years later, would ensure that a) a proper vetting process would have already taken place in the selection process; b) that the host site would have the best facilities available for Worlds, given that they would have been prepared with the Games themselves in mind; and c) the sport would get adequate exposure throughout the world – right now we’re looking at China, Britain, and Brazil if Rio were next in line.

It would also allow the various federations of the sport to utilize the monetary strength of the Olympic movement, to help develop track and field – specifically in building state of the art stadium/facilities. For example, I would encourage USATF (still in need of a CEO) to get together with the USOC to work on developing an Olympic bid with a World Championships bid in mind. Putting together a bid where hosting the Olympics provides the physical structure that has been lacking to formulate an adequate World Championships bid. Such bids could even be put together to include the potential use of the stadium for events such as Soccer’s World Cup – the ultimate idea being to create a “Sports Center” within the country that could play host to the world in multiple events.

Pairings of this type also fit into the overarching goal of the Olympics to bind the international community together through sport (my own paraphrasing). My point here is that I do like the concept. In a world where finances are becoming a premium across the globe, sport needs to look at ways to maximize its dollars to get the biggest bang for the buck – and multi-use stadiums would do exactly that. Multi use in the sense that it isn’t built for the staging of a single event then later dismantled or left sitting as a white elephant on the landscape. I look forward to seeing athletes gather once again in the “Bird’s Nest”, and now eagerly anticipate the “double championships” to be held in London (“12/’17). Having the world go to Rio twice would be nice, as would having them come here to the U.S. (hint).

At any rate, it’s something for the sport to think about if it hasn’t already. Beijing and London could be just coincidence, but it could change the game.

Time to get back to the rankings – up next the women’s 400 meter hurdles.

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