An Athletics World Cup lacking star quality
The initial announcement of the inaugural Athletics World Cup set to be hosted today and tomorrow at the London Stadium attracted a fair bit of excitement.
But clashes with football's World Cup, the Wimbledon finals and other track and field events has taken off quite a bit of the shine. It may be a bit premature to call it a failure before the starter’s gun has fired but the event is already showing fundamental flaws.
The meeting has a theoretical élite bias with the so-called top eight nations in the world being invited to participate. Yet there is no place for Kenya or Ethiopia who finished second and seventh in the medals' table at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London.
It may have something to do with the fact that the World Cup is limited to track events only up to the 1500 metres.
The idea behind the format, which sees one entrant per country in every male and female track and field event, had its foundation in IAAF president Seb Coe’s push for renewal in the sport.
Kenya and Ethiopia’s medals at the World Championships came courtesy of middle-distance and distance events. There seems to be a push at the IAAF to separate the distance races from the main track and field programme which is evident from this World Cup.
The World Cup is also slap bang in the middle of the international track and field season and athletes who are selected for London have had to forego their earning potential from other events like the Rabat Diamond League.
The athletics bigwigs should consider looking at introducing window periods dedicated to international events where athletes can do country duty.
Athletes should not be placed in a precarious position where they have to decide between their own livelihood and representing their country. The Athletics World Cup should not have the status of being an international event and athletes should therefore not feel obligated to participate.
The meet’s incentive structure is based on team standings at the end of the two days which means the prize money is shared among the athletes.
This is great for some of the athletes who are working their way up the international rankings but not so good for the élites who feature in the top-tier Diamond League and World Challenge meetings.
It also brings us to the athletes’ personal sponsorships. Because they are competing in their national colours there is also no incentive for their sponsors. The meeting is supposed to pit the top eight athletes from the eight highest rankings nations in the world.
Unfortunately for organisers some of the big names have snubbed the Cup due to the sponsorship restrictions, the timing of the event or other reasons.
The blue-riband men’s 100m has been watered down with most of the top sprinters from their home nations unavailable for the meeting. American drawcards and world-leading sprinters Noah Lyles, Ronnie Baker and Michael Rodgers will not be in action while some of the other nations are also fielding weakened teams.
South Africa will be without Caster Semenya, who was initially selected for the 800m and the 1500m, while Dominique Scott-Efurd is also unavailable.
Injury has also played a part with Akani Simbine and Clarence Munyai withdrawing due to niggles. South Africa’s top three 100m sprinters this season Simbine, Henricho Bruintjies and Emile Erasmus will also not feature in London.
But there is still some star quality with South African long-jump world champion Luvo Manyonga returning to the scene of his greatest achievement.