By BRENT STUBBS
THE International Amateur Athletic Federation continues to broaden its horizons in providing more innovative events for their athletes to compete in around the world.
The Diamond League Finals, held back-to-back in two different cities in Europe over the weekend, was a prime example.
The format – the Weltklasse Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday night and the AG Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, Belgium on Friday – provided the athletes the opportunity to compete for a share of the huge $3.2 million cash purse that was $50,000 for first place to $2,000 for eighth place.
All of the athletes competing got a chance to put something tangible in their pockets after competing in a series of 12 events over the course of the season to earn an appearance in one of the two cities. In one or two cases, a few athletes had a chance to be featured in the two because of the way the meets were designed.
But what really stuck out for me, in addition to the introduction of the athletes before the start of their disciplines, was the fact that at the end of the two meets, the 16 winners in the two meets were reintroduced as the respective champions and they were awarded their heavy diamond cup hardware as they were recognised before the audience on a massive award podium and then escorted around the track for their victory lap in chauffeured driven cars to the tune of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey.
Just Shaunae Miller-Uibo was fortunate enough to receive the treatment as she successfully defended her title in the women’s 200m at the end of the programme in Brussels. High jumper Donald Thomas had a chance, but he slipped to fifth place in Zurich. Steven Gardiner once again failed to cash in on the men’s 400m after he pulled up in the lead with a cramp on the home stretch.
The IAAF is taking advantage of their innovations to improve the quality of the meets that they bring to the public and indicated that they were pleased that the fans were appreciative of their efforts as they stayed to the very end in both cases to witness the closing ceremonies and fireworks that brought the curtains down on another successful event. I’m glad that I got to witness it for myself. It was truly two beauties to behold.
IAAF World Relays
While in Europe, the buzz was still around the hosting of the 2019 IAAF World Relays.
Although the Bahamas Government has indicated that they are not in a position to host the event for a fourth time because of the inflation of the cost to $5 million, 10 months away from the event returning here May 10-11, 2019.
On its website, the Bahamas is still listed as the venue and an IAAF representative, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were still looking at the Bahamas hosting it at a reduced cost.
If that doesn’t work out, they are hoping to seal a deal for another venue by November.
It’s not the ideal situation that they are faced with, considering the fact that the host nation will need at least a year or two to complete the logistics required to stage such an event.
In the short time left, the IAAF is hoping that wherever it goes, it will continue to grow as it did in the Bahamas with the introduction of the mixed gender relay.
Fans waited until the last drop of competition on the final night to watch as the combo of Gardiner, Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu provided the hometown thrill as the champions of the inaugural event contested at a major competition in the world.
Change in World
When the IAAF takes the World Championships to Doha, Qatar from September 28 to October 6, not only will they be introducing a midnight marathon for the first time, but they have revamped the competition schedule by removing all morning sessions and splitting the evening sessions with one hour intervals to incorporate combined entertainment and family-centred activities.
They’re still working out the details, but the IAAF also intends to make the mixed gender relay the climaxing event at the championships. That would mean that the usual 4 x 400m relay conclusion will be run either on the final day or the day before.
This is expected to bring more excitement to countries as they structure their teams.
Hopefully this will not create a travesty that occurred at the last championships in London, England, last year when Gardiner refused to run in the men’s 4 x 400m heats and was eventually put before a tribunal by the Bahamas Association of Athletic Federations, only to be vindicated when it was discovered that he didn’t do anything wrong.