There was some Interesting commentary from Superman (a.k.a. Michael Johnson) on Telegraph.co.uk last week. Let’s take a closer look at his suggestions:
- My three-point plan would be to shorten the competitions and limit the events to only those that most people, in particular young people, are interested in.
- Focus on the pure competition between the athletes which is too often overlooked amid too much focus on records.
- And lastly, relax the sponsorship regulations to make the sport as a whole more sponsor friendly.
Shorten the Track Meet Schedule
First, I agree on shortening some meets, or split the meet into 2 days. This is the format for Golden League meets, with a half schedule (100-400-1500 one year, 200-800-3000 another year). For a full meet, you will need 2 days on the weekend which very most common in North America. This makes sense if you want to double up (say, 100-200 or 400-200). Even the World Athletic Final is a two day affair.
How about separating Sprints and Distance events? We’ve seen this at HPC Sprint and Jump Training Camps in attitude? Stanford has distance carnivals with the occasional 400 meters thrown in (if lucky) with sometimes barely 3 athletes. McGill University in Montreal used to have Tuesday night All-Comers meets for 800 meters and up on an old beat up Mondo Track before it was converted to the Alouettes’ football stadium . And we’re talking over 10 sections for the 800m!
Forget World Records
It’s easy to ignore world record attempts and focus on the competition instead of the clock. However, non-track paying spectators want to see, in order:
- Usain Bolt. Toronto and Ostrava had record attendance, and I’ll bet Paris and London will be no different. I guarantee Berlin will be sold out for the 100 meters Finals.
- World Records including the Women’s Pole Vault and other reachable records. Remember when they booed Carl Lewis at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Long Jump after taking just 2 jumps? People want to take home something special which includes being an eye witness to a world record.
- Head to Head competition. This is another reason why boxing or more recently MMA mixed martial arts “Ultimate Fighting” has become hugely popular.
We miss the rivalry of Ben Johnson & Carl Lewis from 1986-88. Or Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett from 1980-1984. I loved head-to-head competitions because it brought out the best in me, usually in the form of PRs (Patrice Doucet – where are you now?) It’s no fun to beat your competitors by a mile (unless you’re setting a WR), or always lose to the same person. Imagine being a Masters sprinter born the same year as Bill Collins.
Is NASCAR the Answer?
This is where I disagree with MJ. Do you really think NASCAR and Formula One are successful because of the flashy ads on their cars and uniforms? Branding doesn’t stop at the track. There are several ways to brand outside the uniform, and that includes television, radio, billboards, magazines and old fashioned newspaper.
Or websites and Blogs.
Again, the average non-track paying spectators want to see high octane high offense action packed entertainment. It is sad that sports has to rely on the entertainment angle to sell. But if it brings in the money, who can complain?