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Bolt, Gay set for 3 showdowns in Diamond League

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MONACO (AP)

Sprint stars Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Tyson Gay of the United States will race each other at least three times at elite Diamond League meetings next year.

Athletic's governing body said on Saturday that the two fastest men in history are contracted to compete in seven of the 14 cities in Asia, Europe and the United States featured in the inaugural global series.

The rivals must decide which meets will host their showdowns, over 100 or 200 meters.

"The only thing I know is I will be racing Bolt at least three times or more," Gay said before a Diamond League launch ceremony on Saturday.

The new circuit will be the top tier of track and field in 2010 with no Olympics or World Championships on the schedule.

Bolt, a three-time Olympic champion, took Gay's 100 world title in a record time of 9.58 seconds at Berlin in August, leaving the 27-year-old American with silver despite a lifetime best of 9.71.

Gay then ran 9.69 - equaling the 23-year-old Jamaican's previous world mark set in the Beijing Olympic final - at Shanghai in September.

At least one among Bolt, Gay and Asafa Powell, the third fastest man in history, will be a star attraction at each meet on the circuit.

Other elite athletes committed to seven Diamond League appearances are distance runner Kenenisa Bekele, pole vaulters Yelena Isinbayeva and Steve Hooker, 400 runner Sanya Richards, high jumper Blanka Vlasic and javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen.

The Diamond League offers $6.63 million (?4.46 million) in total prize money across 32 track-and-field disciplines, each staged seven times over the series. A 4-carat diamond will be presented to the season-ending points leader in each event.

It opens at Doha, Qatar, in May, and stops at Shanghai, New York City and several European capital cities before concluding with two finals meets of 16 events each at Zurich and Brussels in August.

The new series replaces the six-city Golden League that offered athletes a share of a $1 million jackpot for six victories. However, the series never left Europe and could not find room for some less glamorous events.

Diamond League vice chairman Patrick Magyar said the old system didn't work for athletes or meet organizers.

"The idea is to bring back competitivity to the meetings ... and also to bring back all disciplines," he said.

Magyar, who runs the Zurich meet, said all 14 cities were working together with broadcast partners to develop a unified Diamond League image.

Season-long rivalries between athletes would be developed as storylines, he said, while the calendar was planned to avoid direct clashes with World Cup football matches being played in South Africa next June and July.

Kristian Hysen, a marketing executive for the IMG agency, said the revamped series had drawn stronger interest from European and Asian broadcasters and new attention from Latin America.

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The 14 Diamond League meets are:

Doha, Qatar, Friday May 14; Shanghai, Sunday May 23; Oslo, Friday June 4; Rome, Thursday June 10; New York, Saturday June 12; Eugene, Oregon, Saturday July 3; Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday July 8; Gateshead, Britain, Saturday July 10; Paris, Friday July 16; Monaco, Thursday July 22; Stockholm, Friday Aug. 6; London, Friday-Saturday Aug. 13-14; Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday Aug. 19; Brussels, Friday Aug. 27.


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