March 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm #12458
I do have to say, I'm a bit disappointed to see World Cross go to every other year. It really was a special annual event that I looked forward to, from Tergat's domination in the 90s when there was only one distance to Bekele's domination in the early 2000s over both distances. It was a special event, as Morse mentions, because it brought the best of the best across all disciplines into a single race. It reminded me of cross country in college, where the 10,000 meter specialists all the way down to the 800 meter specialists would get together to see who was the best of the best. Could the long distance guys run the legs off the middle distance guys or would the middle distance guys be able to hang on and use their superior speed at the end?
Morse is right on that, in the end, it came down to money, specifically advertising revenue. With the Europeans not taking it as seriously and many Americans bypassing it, it became a two country affair and not two countries where big advertising budgets were spent. Sadly, this great tradition has been put off to an every other year status because advertisers don't want to spend the big bucks to reach Kenyans and Ethiopians. They would rather spend it on other sports with more penetration in Europe, North America and parts of eastern Asia.
I hope we will still have some great clashes in the future to enjoy, both for those of us who want to enjoy more of what we got to see in the past and for those who haven't yet had the opportunity to enjoy this great event. Unfortunately, this year is the beginning of not being able to enjoy the event every year. World Cross will be missed this year. Hopefully, it will come back with a bang next year.
March 16, 2012 at 3:24 am #32193
I liked this article as well, it was one of the first I turned to in the latest issue of RT.
I'm a bit disappointed to see World Cross go to every other year.
I agree that it is unfortunate, though more in the sense that the IAAF punted on an opportunity to innovate this event into something that would find broader appeal, though that really comes as little surprise. I might identify more with those whose interest in this event has waned — somewhat along the lines of feelings I have expressed regarding the dominant runners at major marathons anymore. It is barely above indoor track on the pro level for me now. The archaic nationalistic format could be part of the issue. Why not re-imagine it as a Foot Locker (neé Kinney) style event, where runners simply compete at their local regional meet to qualify to the championship race, regardless of nationality? Perhaps make each continent a region. And to heck with the groomed 2K loops, make it loops of 4K, at a minimum, over tough terrain. If the IAAF cannot or will not take the event in a direction like this then that should mean that it is time to turn it over to an organization that can and will.
March 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm #32194
An absolute improvement would be more difficult courses. Drop the golf-course type courses. Whether it's a 2K loop or 4K loop doesn't really matter to me. While I see the benefit of a longer 4K loop, I see why a 2K loop might be preferable with respect to making a spectator friendly course. Of course, there are ways to make a 4K loop as spectator friendly as a 2K loop by having parts of the loop pass near a central point.
I know you've never been a big fan of the nationalistic approach to many of the championship events and I agree. I'm not sure how you improve on that in this case if the problem is the dominance of Kenya and Ethiopia. Combine the two most dominant teams and you have an even more dominant team. Of course, that frees up the team silver medal but creates no team race for first. I have mixed feelings on that.
What about following the lead of some of the indoor T&F meets and the NCAA events we've seen recently and offer a live stream online? Throw some ads on there and you have a new revenue stream.
I do think these problems could have been looked at as opportunities to innovate and the choice, instead of innovating, was contraction. I won't pretend to know what the innovation should have been but you offer some interesting ideas. What I do know is there have to be some ideas out there, as you prove, and they should have at least been considered.
March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm #32195
Roger Robinson offers his take on Running Times Online today. The lack of innovation gets a mention in there. He favors the innovate, don't cut, approach.
March 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm #32196
I like both Robinson's and Morse's writing. However, both of these pieces look like so much “let's find a way to go back to the good old days” haze of nostalgia. The reason that the sport has been left behind is due to its penchant for clinging to stodgy tradition of alleged glory days, sluggish progress beyond the status quo, and inability to innovate in ways that appeal to both athletes and fans in a broad sense. I agree that the 4K races were a mistake. Likely would have been better to go to the 10K distance, perhaps for both genders. 2K loops are bad because it is easy for athletes who are struggling on the day to get lapped, which looks really bad to viewers. Right, the 4K loop could have something of a clover-leaf shape to pass by a central area several times per lap. Spectator-friendly courses should not be a main goal, anyway. Organizers should be aiming to capture viewership via broadcast (or at least webcast) with on-site spectators a secondary concern, at best. Take the course through ditches and mud, up hills, over obstacles like logs or low fences. I am also saying that (like with FL/Kinney) the team race should essentially be dropped. Team Africa would win every time, regardless of format. If, like at Foot Locker, qualifiers were to wear uniforms that color-coordinated with all of the qualifiers from their continent then that would be alright. Make it a pro tournament, though. You qualify at your continental champs to go to the world champs. There should also be a series of races prior to the continental champs to determine qualifiers for continental champs and/or to determine wild-card qualifiers for world champs based on accruing points for place at those races. Make them races of significance, add decent prize purses to lure runners into specializing more in cc. Does not need to be a ton of money in the prize purses, either — except for the World Champs. As was indicated in one of the linked articles, the WCC format has been a one-off event, with basically nothing leading up to it. March Madness is preceded by conference tournaments and conference seasons in which teams are competing hard to secure bids and seeding for the tournament. It is compelling and people watch it. WC and OG have the Golden/Diamond League leading up to them. Even NCAA cc has conference and regional champs that fuel fan excitement. WCC is just dropped into March with little lead-in at all.
March 18, 2012 at 1:39 am #32197
As I read their articles, I saw mentioning of nostalgic moments as a reference to how great these events have been, not necessarily saying they should always be kept as they were. That said, they sure didn't offer ways to improve the event in any way like you just have.
I agree that thoughts of webcast audience should weigh heavily on the minds of organizers. I was even thinking of that as I was making my last post. I do think a cloverleaf-style design would be good for the on-site spectators and would give the impression of bigger crowds for the online viewers. However, the bulk of the potential fan base and the bulk of the potential revenue stream is with webcasting and that should always be kept in mind. Not just course layout, though layouts with some challenging terrain I think would add to the interest, but also getting the event webcasted (Has it ever been? Not that I can recall.) and doing a good job of that webcasting. Good camera angles, lots of cameras.
I see your point with a 2K loop. It doesn't take much on a 2K loop for even a good runner to get lapped. If they went to a 10K course for everyone, two 5k loops in some kind of cloverleaf configuration could easily alleviate that concern. It would also give plenty of distance to offer a wide variety of terrain.
That regional qualifying thing is an interesting idea. Put a big pot of gold at the end and you will draw the top talent to the regional events as a means to get in the competition for that big pot of gold. In the meantime, smaller purses at the regional competitions will fill out the field with runners who would be happy to share in any purse they can get their hands on. I would note that Foot Locker does have team/regional scoring at the national meet, just that very few pay attention to it.
March 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm #32198
I would note that Foot Locker does have team/regional scoring at the national meet, just that very few pay attention to it.
Right, it is an irrelevant score. Much like national teams of pros, these are all-star rosters that do not really train or race together in the real sense of a team.
March 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm #32199
May 11, 2012 at 3:10 am #32200
The editor of T&FN agrees with me: kill indoor track on the pro level and enable outdoor track to thrive.
May 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm #32201
It's an argument I'm finding harder all the time to disagree with. I love indoor track. The intensity of it, in a smaller arena with the fans at the very least feeling much closer to the action, is amazing. From both a fan's viewpoint and an athlete's viewpoint, I've always found it to be a much more high energy atmosphere than outdoor track.
That said, the big fish is outdoors. With limited resources that appear to not be able to be adequately spread over indoors and outdoors, we should focus those resources where it counts most. That would be outdoors. I hate to say drop the support for indoors because it's something that I have such a great appreciation for but it would be a huge disservice to the sport to keep indoors on life support while outdoors wilts. Prop up outdoor track in support of the Olympic Trials and Olympics (or US Champs and World Champs/Diamond League/etc in other years) and, if you must, let indoors sink or swim on its own.
May 11, 2012 at 11:37 pm #32202
It spreads very limited resources incredibly thin and hurts the sport on our soil profoundly. It is ridiculous that there are so few world class level meets on this continent before the Olympic Trials. There should be at least one per weekend, even if they are just event-centric meets (distance carnivals in places like Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, and Portland, throws, sprints and jumps just about anywhere warm). Where are top athletes supposed to get Olympic qualifying marks if they were unable to peak well in April? The NCAA meets? The Pre and Adidas GP meets, which omit many events that are on the Olympic schedule like the steeple and the 10,000m? I am friends with a Dutch distance runner who is based here and who came down with a bug on her way to Mt. SAC which stayed with her through Payton Jordan, scuttling her ability to run the 5000m mark she needed. She has to wait until the European season gets going to chase a mark and will have to add a much longer trip overseas to her schedule.
May 13, 2012 at 1:18 am #32203
There is opportunity for a May/early June season. There aren't a ton of European meets at that time, you might even be able to draw some athletes from overseas. Yet nothing. Like you state, a distance carnival here, a throws carnival there, a jumps festival in the other place. These are good ideas and much more productive than an indoor season.
May 13, 2012 at 4:19 am #32204
Plus people might actually want to show up or tune-in to watch, as opposed to what seems to tend to happen with the pro indoor meets in the Northeast. If there were a throws meet in Denver in the next month, I likely would want to go see that and would be willing to pay for the privilege. Additionally, it builds toward the Olympics (or World Champs) and indoors only builds towards Indoor World Champs, which frankly is not much of a draw and likely never will be. Indoors for pro athletes seems to chiefly be a way to lure athletes with prize money into competing in a minor spectacle forced onto broadcasters when said athletes could be better off either training or racing on the roads or on turf. Give them more opportunities to earn money competing during their prime season on home turf rather than tempting them to compromise their off-season.
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