June 2009
THIS JUST IN! THIS COLUMN IS NOT ABOUT THE OLYMPIC TRIALS! After three straight months of ranting about the expected changes to the OT format, I decided to beat on another drum. Another old one, actually.

If the new USATF leadership wants to make the sport and its athletes more visible (as “Project 30” explains), allow me to suggest that they do so in a literal sense, not just a figurative one. The drum upon which I beat is the U.S. national uniform.

In our wrap-up of the ’96 Olympic action, in a piece cynically entitled, “Why Not Camouflage?” T&FN lambasted the U.S. garb, saying, “Spectator aids have never been better at an Olympics than they were in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the assistance didn’t extend to one crucial area: U.S. team uniforms.” We went on to talk about “aura of invisibility” and “stealth suits.”

We continued, “While a good old red, white & blue treatment made sense on the surface, perhaps the predominant blue shouldn’t have been so impossibly, well, drab. In a world of color this was a trip back to black & white and it was anything but nostalgic.” We repeated the complaint after the next Olympics, in Sydney. And while I don’t recall our doing so for Athens or Beijing, nothing changed for the good. Nor did it at all the World Championships in between.

In an era where promoting the sport is all about visual imagery, and the written word has come to mean less and less, the U.S. athletes remain garbed in a monochromatic world. Dark blue just doesn’t cut it.

Indeed, at the risk of diving too deeply into the depths of the cutting-edge-fashion pool, I’d say it’s time to get involved in some risky business. Even if the U.S. uniforms are “ugly” (it’s all a matter of taste), so long as they’re the most visible gear on the track and field then the mission is accomplished. When those TV viewers who don’t know Tyson Gay from Alan Webb tune in, they should at least instantly be able to exclaim, “Hey, there’s the American guy!”

You know what? Even camouflage would be better than where we’ve been the last couple of decades. At least it would be distinctive.

• • •

THE YOUTH OLYMPICS? WHAT’S THAT? A couple of years back the IOC announced with great fanfare the inauguration of the Youth Olympics, and last year awarded the 2010 meet to Singapore. We haven’t heard a lot about it since.

The project wasn’t the IAAF’s idea, so while track’s governing body has apparently been struggling with a new concept which operates under the premise that “cultural & educational” aspects are as important for 14–18-year olds as is competition, it certainly seems to me that they’ve let the calendar run awfully far down without announcing any details.

We seem to know that the athletes will come from geographical areas rather than national entities, but where are the specifics on how American kids (to say nothing of other areas) are supposed to qualify? To announce later this year (the only option left) when and where athletes can make the team seems to be leaving it just a little late.