There are some events in athletics that really catch the public’s imagination – big city marathons (especially the World Marathon Majors), Diamond League events and, of course, the Olympics to name just a handful. The World Championships is also an event that garners global media and public attention and with some athletes reserving their best efforts for these big events, the desire that cities and countries have to host them, rises.
So it is no surprise that when the IAAF decided that they had awarded the 2021 World Championships to Eugene, Oregon, without the usual pitch process, there would not be universal acceptance.
Enter the Swedish government and the great and the good of Gothenberg, stage right, to express their indignation that they had not been given a chance to pitch to hold the event.
This whole episode brings into question the role of the IAAF or indeed any governing body. Who do they represent and what is their job.
In the case of the IAAF they argued that they were acting in the best interests of the sport of athletics saying there was “a unique strategic opportunity” to hold the event in the United States for the first time.
IAAF chief Lamine Diack went on to say that the decision was taken “in the interest of the global development of our sport”.
I imagine that the Swedish athletics’ general secretary Anders Albertsson might point out that it could also be in the interest of the global development of the sport to have the event in Gothenberg on the 400th anniversary of the city. But the decision has been made and that is that.
The problem here is that there are so many financial considerations linked to a decision such as the one the IAAF have taken. There are huge expenses linked to hosting the World Championships and also massive rewards. In 2009 the World Championships in Berlin cost the city €20 million, but revenues include €17 million from ticketing and €7 million from marketing. And it was estimated that visitors spent €120 million during the championships.
The bottom line here is that Eugene will host the 2021 competition. But the decision has not been controversy free and with so much at stake, perhaps the IAAF should have been a little more prepared to accept bids from other potential hosts.