London’s Attrubutes as an Annual ET&F “Major” Site

The positive buzz about the recent IAAF World Championships in London’s Olympic Stadium continues. See, for example, a recent Guardian article ( link  ). As has been discussed on this site, a 50,000 seat stadium packed nearly to the rafters, for 15 sessions, is a very good sign. As has been widely reported, aggregate attendance numbers (circa 700K) set a meeting record by a very wide margin. This site has suggested that this stadium, site, and event organizational structure be replicated annually, with or without the moniker “World Championships”. It could serve as an initial “major” event that the stakeholders of ET&F would own. Don’t wait two years to try it again in some other location. Of course, as the white papers discuss, a bunch of other modifications to the format would also be helpful. Among these are an effort to seed even larger fields solely by competitive results over the preceding season, allotment of larger amounts of prize money to the athletes, and elimination of strict nationalistic labels for the athletes (which affect field composition due to country limits per event). Even without these improvements, London should throw another party in 2018.

While there are other possible sites for a “2nd major of the year”, one needs to be careful to ensure that these locations tick all of the boxes that London does. As a nostalgic American, Hayward Field in Eugene is a great location for elite meets. The efforts of the University Oregon (and Tracktown) to host memorable events are both strong and commendable. Still, there are many reasons that Eugene could struggle to replicate a London-sized event. First and foremost is stadium capacity. According to listings of past and future IAAF WC sites ( link ), even a re-developed form of Hayward Field (for 2021) will have the fewest seats of any site, by a large margin. Without some sort of new technical wizardry, IAAF 2021 will struggle to reach aggregate attendance numbers that are even 70% of London. An addition issue is that Eugene itself is small. So, even if Hayward suddenly grew to 50,000 seats, one wonders if the local infrastructure could support this many more visitors. I am sure that the local Chamber of Commerce director could argue with me, but I remain skeptical. Also, London benefits from “location, location, location” in a way that Eugene could never match. As an average, busy professional person, I rarely go there for meets. Travel logistics turn any single day visit into a three-day investment. I am not sure how the CoC can deal with the location thing!

Having said all of that, Eugene could be a great site for a “secondary major” (think of French Open, relative to Wimbledon or the US Open in tennis). Attendance figures of 300K to 400K seem distinctly possible. It is hard to imagine, however, that it could top London as a location. American nostalgia is only worth so much!

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