Author Topic: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How  (Read 3219 times)

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Offline Ryan

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Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How

As soon as I saw this, I thought of Andrew. I've always agreed with Andrew that they should do more to make sure the best of the best get into both Olympics and World Championships events. This is an interesting idea of how that might be accomplished. Still allow countries 3 entries, if 3 runners qualify of course, but create qualifying criteria for the field in general that would allow countries like Kenya more entries in the marathon (and countries like the US and Jamaica more entries in the sprints, etc).

Offline Andrew A.

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2012, 12:52:39 PM »
Well, now I consider the drawback: the OG marathon(s) could easily go the way of World Cross.  With a chance at a medal for someone like Meb (as Amby points out), Hall, Rothlin, Baldini, any Japanese runner, etc. rendered effectively nil, despite the history of the event will the prominent federations (and economies) continue to bother to send full contingents in the marathon for the OG and will their support, broadcasting, etc. of the OG marathon(s) whither as a result?
Why dink around? Go for it, be the best. It is worth whatever risk there is even if you fall short. You will be better.
‎"There is no such thing as an overachiever. We are all underachievers to varying degrees." - John Wooden.

Offline Ryan

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2012, 07:39:24 PM »
That is actually my thought of the negative, also. That has always been my hesitation when I've seen the idea coming back. If we take Amby's idea, you have something 20 Kenyans and 5 Ethiopians as the top seeds with the random Ryan Hall thrown in. By 22 miles, it's a battle between a bunch of Kenyans and maybe one or two Ethiopians. Meb would be out of it. Hall may be hanging on but not seriously in contention. Guys like you and I would watch to see the best of the best go head to head. The average American Olympics viewer? Hmm, what else is on?

I like the idea for fans like you and me. For the health of the sport worldwide, I'm not so sure. But it sure would make for a race I'd love to see.

Offline r-at-work

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 07:44:23 AM »
Guys like you and I would watch to see the best of the best go head to head. The average American Olympics viewer? Hmm, what else is on?

I like the idea for fans like you and me. For the health of the sport worldwide, I'm not so sure. But it sure would make for a race I'd love to see.

The Olympic creed
Quote
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
 

On of the marathon stories I remember was the runner who struggled to finish, the winners had been done for hours.. the stadium already being prepped for the closing ceremonies. When asked why he continued when he knew there was no hope of winning he stated that his country sent him there to finish the race, not just just to start it. USA will not send a field hockey team because there was no medal hope. There are plenty of marathons that pit the best in the world against one another. But every four years there is supposed to be a gathering of teams from all nations for GAMES that allow all to participate. I am also so idealistic that I continue to hope that politics doesn't get involved.
"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves..." Sir Roger Bannister

Offline Ryan

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2012, 07:59:10 AM »
Rita, the Olympic creed is an amazing statement and one that I would love to see the Olympics live up to. However, not to burst your idealistic bubble but I think you know as well as anyone that's not how the current Olympics works. Qualifying times, political division of the field via nation-based participation limits, financial (sponsorship primarily) and publicity incentives for winning or placing high. I could go on. The Olympics may still for many be about that wonderful creed but those aren't the people who we see. We see the winners, the medalists, those narrowly out of the medals. These are the people who are celebrated, whether it's right or wrong.

In our current cultural climate, whether or not the organizers of the Olympics still believe in that creed, whether or not the athletes participating believe in that creed doesn't really matter. The people sitting on their couches at home watching the Olympics and essentially footing the bill for the Olympics by providing eyeballs that advertisers want to pay to reach want to see winners. More than that, they want to see winners who are wearing their home country's name across their chests. Joe Sixpack sees, at most, two marathons every four years. Is he even going to watch those if the entire top 20 in the race is made up of Kenyans and Ethiopians?

Offline Andrew A.

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 08:41:25 AM »
Olympic greed >> Olympic creed  8)
Why dink around? Go for it, be the best. It is worth whatever risk there is even if you fall short. You will be better.
‎"There is no such thing as an overachiever. We are all underachievers to varying degrees." - John Wooden.

Offline r-at-work

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 07:16:52 AM »
not to burst your idealistic bubble but I think you know as well as anyone that's not how the current Olympics works. Qualifying times, political division of the field via nation-based participation limits, financial (sponsorship primarily) and publicity incentives for winning or placing high....
 
Joe Sixpack sees, at most, two marathons every four years. Is he even going to watch those if the entire top 20 in the race is made up of Kenyans and Ethiopians?

I am idealistic...Joe Sixpack will watch whatever is broadcast, to some extent... the networks truly control what we see anyway. But the marathon, no matter who is winning makes for great "theater"...100 meters is over in 10 seconds but when you see minutes (you rarely see hours) of the front runners, the best at that moment, struggling... well, even people who have only laced up their running shoes to sit in front of a TV can get a glimpse into the difficulty of the sport and maybe gain an appreciation of the tenacity of the runners, whatever country they are from. It's like a reality show for the viewers... but for the runners, there's something to consider also. How many people would bother running marathons with the Olympics in mind if they knew that they had to make the top 30 times in one year, for example, in order to go to the Olympics? Amby might wish to make the Olympics more competitive but instead it might discourage more people then INSPIRE, which is what it is to us idealists.
 
Can you imagine how hopeless it would seem to the middle tier runners who's goal is to make it to the O.Trials and now had to run a time trial instead. On the other hand most would be able to quit at 13.1 miles as it would be painfully obvious that they would never break 2:10. Take a look at MarathonGuide.com, they have a 'top 200' performances, you can sort by date...Hall, dos Santos and one UGA and one MAR runner make the recent under 2:10... the rest are from KEN and ETH...I know that it is near impossible to train at the level needed to get there now, econimically... add the time trial element and you wipe out the glimmer.
 
I'll stay idealistic, hope for miracles and follow the Olympics, flawed as they are... you just never know when you'll see someone break out of the pack wearing 'USA' even if he/she isn't one of the top 20 in the world in time trials... in 26 miles almost anything can happen.
"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves..." Sir Roger Bannister

Offline Ryan

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 08:51:37 AM »
Rita, I guess we just have a different view of Joe Sixpack. I don't see him sitting through a marathon (and they are on for the duration of the race at the Olympics - I DVR'd Wanjiru's race and spent hours/days watching the whole race repeatedly) without feeling some connection to it and what connection is he going to feel other than a USA uniform at or near the front? Maybe 20-30 years ago, with far fewer channels available, he would watch because there was nothing else on. Now, he can flip through 100 other channels and find a rerun of Law and Order.

As for the selection criteria, I think you may have missed part of it. It's not simply picking the top 20 of the performance list. It's selecting them as guaranteed entries. Then, countries could fill out rosters as they would now. So it wouldn't be Hall, a bunch of Kenyans and a few Ethiopians. The US team would be as it is now because the US would still be allowed to fill out its roster with two more runners. All other countries would be allowed to enter runners based on the current criteria. Essentially, the only runners this would affect would be the Kenyans and Ethiopians. More of them would be allowed in. The rest of the field would remain as it is.

Offline Andrew A.

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Re: Itís Time to Make the Olympic Marathon More Competitive. Hereís How
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 09:45:19 AM »
The networks show what ratings prove is watched the most, they have genuine measures for figuring this out.  Joe Sixpack (even John Marathonfinisher) is not clamoring to see Virgin London, BoA Chicago, BMW Berlin on tv, either.  That type would likely not even DVR those should they be available via free broadcast -- unless, of course, Hall or Flanagan were in the race, but I digress.  Like Ryan pointed out, too much competition for eyeballs in the U.S. media market now.  Baseball and softball were removed from the Olympic program despite the U.S. teams being dominant medal contenders in each, primarily because it turned out to be just the same few nations contending for medals each time and it became uninteresting to watch, even in the country that invented the sport(s) and where the sport(s) remain significantly popular on all other levels!  In our sports-happy and baseball-loving country, the general sports fan viewership would rather tune-in for preseason NFL than for Olympic baseball and softball, despite the usual promise of seeing the home team get a medal.  Other nations stopped assembling and sending teams for baseball and softball because they did not see the merit in simply showing up and 'fighting well' only to get clobbered and see the other nations on the medal podium time after time. The marathons may not be removed from the Olympic program once they become a de facto Kenyan championship and thus uninteresting to the general Olympic broadcast viewer (though it would not surprise me if they were), they might simply get dropped from the broadcast stream to the U.S., U.K., Europe, etc. because advertisers do not want to pay for airtime that consumers do not tune-in to.  I feel that would hurt the sport domestically. 

I think you may have missed something about Burfoot's proposal, however.  It would not be only the top 30 performers to go, it would be the top 30 in addition to the standard 3-per country (more or less) for all others.  The issue with that could easily be what we saw happen with World Cross in that the best runners from a given (non-African) nation will skip it and we might see U.S., U.K., Japanese, Australian, etc. teams consisting of second or third tier (in their countries) athletes who can get under the Oly A standard but have little chance at even the top ten, would just be fodder for filling out the field -- Olympic tourists, to borrow a term.  Similar to the teams we see fielded for WC marathons.  Waning interest to make the U.S. Olympic team in the marathon among top runners would likely hurt the sport domestically, as well.  With no appearance fees involved, why would any non-African pro runner outside of the top 15 want to go spend one of their hardest marathon efforts to run a race for free and a monumental challenge just to make the top 10, to say nothing of contending for a medal?  Under Burfoot's proposal, the odds to  make the podium and medal that U.S. runners like Keflezighi and Kastor had would be made essentially nil.  Or would it just lead to top guys and gals taking team spots, taking the trip to the Olympics, and then DNFing by mile 20 when the race outcome for medals (or top 10) is clear so they can regroup and collect an appearance fee for Chicago, Berlin, NYC, or Fukuoka?  And with no shot at an Olympic medal, it just makes a career in the marathon for a U.S. runner (as with Kastor and Keflezighi) far tougher.  Would Keflezighi and Kastor (let alone runners further down the competitive scale like Hall, Goucher, Sell, Russell, Lewy-Boulet, et al) have specialized primarily in the marathon and kept after it without one marathon every year that had a limited field of top Africans and a pretty big payoff?  Take away the incentive of the possibility of contending for a medal and the desire to develop to the level of a medal contender in the marathon is eroded.  The only way to make Burfoot's idea work well is to add significant prize money going about 20-deep, to incentivize it for those outside the top 20 -- even for those outside the top 10, for that matter.
Why dink around? Go for it, be the best. It is worth whatever risk there is even if you fall short. You will be better.
‎"There is no such thing as an overachiever. We are all underachievers to varying degrees." - John Wooden.

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