Is that what we might see from Diamond League 2.0?
As noted in the “Last Lap” section of this month’s issue, the IAAF and the DL folks are dickering about ways to improve the product of the sport’s biggest series of invitational meets (as Monaco likes to call them, “1-day events”) when the current contract expires after the ’19 sequence of 14 meets.
Very much on the table, apparently, is serious discussion about reducing the number of meets.
How many remains open to speculation, and perhaps he was only spitballing, but IAAF majordomo Seb Coe floated the thought of a mere 8 fixtures.
That got me to some spitballing of my own. Cutting 6 (that’s 43%) from the current roster would be quite a task.
Let’s look at reasons why each of them—recognizing what an outsized role both politics & geography play—has a good case for staying, but also has a weakness, if any.
In the order in which the DL meets will be staged this year, my strengths and weaknesses for each:
Strengths—The only meet in the Middle East also has vast financial resources and strong government backing.
Weaknesses—No real culture of the sport exists, weather can be brutal.
Strengths—The only meet in Asia also has good financial underpinnings.
Weaknesses—Another where the culture of the sport isn’t deeply ingrained in the populace.
Strengths—The only meet in the Americas boasts fabulous fan support and the firm backing of shoe/apparel giant Nike. Overall, the federation’s marketing boys wouldn’t want to lose the valuable American market.
Weaknesses—Staged in a small, not-easy-to-get-to city that’s not on the international radar.
Strengths—Is staged in one of the world’s great destination cities, still benefits from the power it gained during the IAAF’s Nebiolo era.
Weaknesses—Hasn’t been an inspiring meet as of late; stadium perhaps too big for the crowds it draws.
Strengths—Long regarded as one of the gems of the international circuit; hard to imagine European Athletics head (and former longtime Bislett Games organizer) Svein-Arne Hansen not packing oversized weight in any discussions.
Weaknesses—Given the Nordic weather, perhaps staged too early in the year in recent iterations; small nation lacking in local star power.
Strengths—The most venerable stadium on the circuit, host to countless World Records.
Weaknesses—Tales of ongoing financial frailty, and will the concept of two Scandinavian cities fly?
Strengths—Who doesn’t want to visit the City Of Light, be it athlete or fan? French remains the second language of the IAAF.
Weaknesses—Once the bloom came off the rose of staging the meet at the massive facility in St.-Denis, will the switch to the more friendly confines of Charléty bring needed life back to the meet?
Strengths—Staged in the home city of the IOC, which counts for lots. Fast track frequently kicks out impressive times.
Weaknesses—The No. 2 meet in one of the only two countries to have more than one meet. Is that overkill on a limited circuit? Like Zürich to come, bring plenty of bitcoin.
Strengths—The only meet in Africa also has great government backing.
Weaknesses—Little culture for the sport other than past glories at longer track distances.
Strengths—Home offices of the IAAF. That should be ’nuff said, but meet also carries the imprimatur of Prince Albert in a delightfully telegenic venue.
Weaknesses—Hard to think of any, unless it’s the fact that you can’t stage the hammer on the unique building-top track for fear that one might plunge through the floor into the parking garage right below. Oh, wait—the DL doesn’t have the hammer.
Strengths—Even if Lord Coe didn’t run things at the top end of the sport, in the wake of the immensely successful London Olympics the meet remains a huge attendance draw.
Weaknesses—Some soccer team will take over the stadium the day of the meet?
Strengths—The backing of the embedded British power in the IAAF power structure certainly doesn’t hurt. But fervent—and knowledgeable—crowds don’t cause pain either.
Weaknesses—There’s that second-city-in-one-country problem. But that’s about it.
Strengths—Weltklasse means “world class” and that pretty much sums things up in the longtime king of invitational meets. The country will stop making cuckoo clocks before the meet ceases to be a DL fixture.
Weaknesses—I believe we slyly alluded to the exchange rate with the rest of the world’s currencies under the Lausanne category. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a nice frosty $15 glass of their favorite adult beverage? Moving right along…
Strengths—The press corps gets free Stella Artois in the stands. Oh sorry, got distracted there for a minute… Huge crowds—with great in-stadium entertainment—make it a delightful destination. There’s a reason it’s one of the DL’s two finale meets.
So Who Makes The Cut?
Did that quickie analysis help you decide which cities become the Elite 8?
It’s not at all an easy decision to make. It won’t be easy for the IAAF either, and if contraction is indeed in the cards I can see them starting the winnowing process by imposing dollar-based regulations which will force some of the current hosts to bail on their own, saving the IAAF from having to play bad cop.
For starters, I’d call 5 meets slam dunks: Brussels, London, Monaco, Oslo & Zürich. That only leaves me with 2 more choices. Why 2 and not 3? Because my guess is that when DL 2.0 is released Berlin will be back in the mix, reuniting the original Golden 4 from the ’90s (Berlin, Brussels, Oslo, Zürich).
My prediction for the final positions is based on the size of their overall status of their nations in the world economy: Shanghai and “Eugene.”
I qualify the Eugene choice because I can envision a world where the bean counters want the American presence to be in a media center that’s also 3 hours closer to Europe. That would be New York.
That sounds like 8 great meets, but I’m left with a nagging question. Track already suffers from being a niche sport that doesn’t reach enough people. I’d suggest that DL 3.0 might be the better answer: a larger series, not a smaller one. Less is not always more. □