POSSIBILITY OF 5000M STILL ALIVE IN NEW DIAMOND LEAGUE FORMAT

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

The IAAF addresses a concern raised by Athletics Kenya. It is an issue and an explanation that should interest any top athlete running distances longer than the 3000m, not to mention fans of those distances.

Absence of the 5000m race from the official Diamond League programme does not preclude individual Diamond League meets from hosting the event outside the international broadcast window.

This has been mentioned in an official statement of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), dated March 31, 2019, issued in the context of concerns raised by Athletics Kenya over the exclusion of events longer than 3000m in the Diamond League programme. Sebastian Coe, president, IAAF and Jon Ridgeon, CEO, IAAF, have reassured Athletics Kenya that changes to the IAAF Diamond League format next year will not disadvantage African athletes.

Coe, Ridgeon and Athletics Kenya president Lt. General (retd) Jackson Tuwei met during the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus in order to avoid any misunderstanding between the two organizations over the new Diamond League format approved by the IAAF Council in Doha earlier this month, the statement said. According to it, Athletics Kenya was particularly concerned by the exclusion of any event longer than 3000m from the Diamond League programme next year and the reduction in the number of meetings from 14 to 13.

Tuwei sought, and received, assurance that Kenyan and other East African athletes, who feature prominently in 5000m races, would not lose competition opportunities due to this process. Coe confirmed that the absence of the 5000m from the official Diamond League programme would not preclude individual Diamond League meetings from running the event outside of the 90-minute international broadcast window and that several meetings had already shown interest in hosting the 5000m.

Ridgeon explained that the IAAF’s market research showed that producing a series that consistently featured the best athletes competing against each other was a key factor in improving the appeal of the Diamond League for broadcasters and fans, the statement said.

At the same time the 5000m runners, coaches and agents consulted during the process indicated that they were unlikely to run six races over that distance during the Diamond League series (last year no leading athlete ran more than two 5000m races during the regular Diamond League season). The 3000m distance was selected because it was more likely to attract the best distance talent more regularly.

As a consequence, distance runners will have the option of running up to seven 3000m races (including the Diamond League Final), plus additional 5000m races, across the season.

“ We believe that ultimately these changes will be beneficial not only to Kenyan and East African distance runners, but to our leading athletes around the globe, because it will result in a stronger, higher-profile, commercially-successful annual showcase series for our sport,’’ Coe said.

“ And it’s important to remember that the IAAF will be creating other continental competition opportunities outside the Diamond League as we redesign the global calendar.’’ This he affirmed will increase opportunities for the athletes to compete, the statement said.

According to it, Ridgeon emphasized the IAAF’s intention to review the new format at the end of the 2020 season and make any adjustments to the programme as required.

Backdrop: According to Wikipedia, the IAAF Diamond League is an annual series of elite track and field competitions. The series began with the 2010 Diamond League. It was designed to replace the IAAF Golden League which had been held annually since 1998. While the Golden League was formed to increase the profile of the leading European athletics competitions, the Diamond League’s aim was to enhance the worldwide appeal of athletics by going outside Europe. In addition to the original Golden League members (except Berlin) and other traditional European competitions, the series now includes events in China, Qatar, Morocco and the United States.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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