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I watched most of the BBC’s Red button and normal coverage of the recent Portland Indoor Worlds and enjoyed it. The IAAF have tried to implement some new ideas to bring athletics into the 21st century. Some I think good, some not so…
Let’s start with a subject close to my heart, the long jump and other field events. The new format brought a kind of shoot-out to the last round with the final eight being halved to four. It looked – although it was difficult to tell from the TV editing of the coverage – that the shoot-out was delayed so that it could be a main focus in the arena. Now, put yourself in Dan Bramble’s spikes he’s gone 8.12m and then 8.14m (for what I think is the third longest indoor jump by a Brit) and then he’s out. He must of oh, so wanted that last jump. What difference really does removing four jumpers (or throwers) make? If the will is to highlight the last round then it could still be done in the same way. With the speed that the US officials were getting every one up on deck (always wondered what that meant) then 8-10 minutes might be all that it takes for the “8-ball” shoot-out. And we all know how much a competition can change in the last round.
Putting the shoot-out concept into context with the track – imagine if judges pulled the last 4-8 runners out of a middle distance race at the bell… think there would be a lot of complaints there… mind you…
Then there’s the music.
It’s fine but I bet it’s as distracting as much as motivational and who’s the music for? The fans, athletes, the DJ? Athletics has an older crowd of supporters, say compared to football, so perhaps a bit of Perry Como or Jim Reeves might go down well! Hopefully you’ll see the issue here. The DJ can kill it or make it – or should I say the music. It seems that a happy balance needs to be struck. And then there was a telling moment when Ashton Eaton, shushed not only the music but also the announcer to a round of applause. Silence can provide as much a focus as fireworks and smoke.
Speaking of which I thought that was fine and fun. The carry-over from the World Relays held in Bahamas worked when athletes were introduced for the finals, even if some of the teams could do with a bit of choreography! Perhaps lottery funding should be extended to include “cutting shapes”.
Having the presentations outside of the arena – well, that sped up proceedings, which I guess was the aim of that. That’s not a bad idea, but I probably don’t expect to see that at the Olympics or outdoor Worlds any time soon. Although having the ceremonies at breaks in the programme i.e. between morning and evening sessions and at the start of these sessions could be an option (too many in one go perhaps?).
What else? The display boards next to the pit for example, good idea. But perhaps Janay DeLoach’s reason for having her 6th round jump measured from a point further back could have been highlighted (there or somewhere else). The BBC apparently found out through social media what had happened. If improving spectator interest is what it’s all about then that could help – we live in an age where info is available instantaneously after all. Similar public display of “why” could go for, what technique a thrower or jumper uses (just an idea that) and even the false start - although there could be a desire to say less then and there…
Indoor athletics has a lot of scope to be innovative and to showcase and test aspects that could happen outdoors. All power to the IAAF for picking up the ball in Portland. You have to start somewhere.
And finally, no I’ve not finished just yet… I’m old enough to recall what happened when Kerry Packer put a rocket up the proverbial of cricket... one-day games, coloured uniforms, playing under floodlights, white balls, innovative TV… it’ll never catch-on. Well…
Athletics should reflect on its quest for innovation - unless you live in India, I believe (or it’s the Ashes), the 5-day game has seemingly been put on the back burner. So indoor track could be the one-day game equivalent of cricket and outdoors the Test match in future… I hope not. The 400-metre track is the heart of the sport. The balance between razzmatazz, PR good ideas and rubbish ideas needs to be carefully developed, considered and implemented and taken from the indoors to the out. But athletics needs to start somewhere.
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