FOR YEARS I’ve been staunchly flogging the concept of adding another World Championships to our sport’s rotation of meets. Each Olympic quadrennium would then feature a Games and three WC meets. No more of having the WC only in odd-numbered years.
But wait! Didn’t we just have an even-yeared WC in Eugene? Did that not prove that we can live without having to have an off-year? I’d love to respond with an unqualified “yes!” but I can’t quite go that far.
The qualified answer is yes, we saw that it can be staged, but no, the outcome wasn’t ideal. At least that’s my U.S.-centric view of the summer of ’22.
As great a year as it was for running, jumping & throwing, ’22 was seriously flawed in the scheduling department. Not that that’s any great shock, given the ongoing domino effects of the COVID pandemic.
When the ’20 OG moved to ’21, the ’21 WC moved to ’22 and as such needed to be shoehorned into a summer whose August was already staging both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.
Around all of which the Diamond League needed to be squeezed in. That meant a July with a single DL meet and an August with only 3. From my point of view, at a time when the world’s best should have been confirming their status, avenging upsets and producing thrilling finishes there was week after week of what should have been high drama that were instead of limited interest to many fans.
And I’ve got no way to specifically quantify it, but my gut feel was that the DL Final, once we got to it was missing more stars than usual and that overall quality was down.
To be sure, a one-year data sample isn’t much to go on, but given the evidence of this summer I would probably prefer to see the previously non-WC even-years stay that way rather than have such big gaps in action and a devalued DL Circuit.
There is another option, of course, and that’s for WA to convince either the EC or CG to move to an odd-numbered setup so that the two don’t clash. Having just one of those two meets out of the picture this year would have made for a huge difference overall.
Given that the Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport affair, it’s basically impossible to imagine getting them into a moving mode, so that leaves the Euros. Obviously — even though it has had a couple of odd-year stagings in its history — that would be a big ask, but who better to spearhead the asking than WA’s powerful Seb Coe, who competed at both the CG and EC?
I have taken this add-a-Champs stance not only as a hardcore fan who greedily wants to see the planet’s best go head-to-head in a battle for event supremacy on an annual basis; I’m also seriously concerned about the health of the sport in general.
We need to be in the public eye as much as we can possibly be. While WA is taking some bold steps to upgrade the sport’s presentation values and visibility, the old adage “out of sight out of mind” still comes to mind.
Every year that doesn’t have a WC or OG is a summer with 10-or-so days that don’t have highest-visibility broadcasting of track & field. And the missing days are the kind that stick in people’s minds. We can’t afford that. ◻︎