Track worlds in limbo until new Olympic dates are set
LONDON (AP) — The date of the next world track championships is in limbo until the International Olympic Committee decides on a new schedule for the postponed Tokyo Games.
Sebastian Coe, the Olympic great who is now president of World Athletics, said Friday there are plenty of options for rescheduling next year’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon, but at the moment they all depend on the IOC.
“The International Olympic Committee, from our discussions yesterday, and the one-on-one discussions that will have already started this morning, are conscious that they need to make that decision quickly. We need athletes with some certainty,” Coe said in an online video conference call.
“And of course, the rest of the jigsaw doesn’t make a great deal of sense until you’ve got the one big centerpiece in there, and then we can start building constructively around the edges of it.”
The Olympics were postponed on Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the IOC saying the Tokyo Games would now take place sometime in 2021. Although it’s likely the games will be pushed back to the same slot in 2021 as it would have occupied this year, that decision hasn’t yet been finalized.
Coe was one of the most influential sports leaders to call for the IOC to delay the games, sending them a letter on Sunday a few hours before the Olympic body announced it was considering postponement.
The two-time Olympic champion in the 1,500 meters said he was on a conference call with the IOC and dozens of other sports federations on Thursday, with each making their case for their preferred rescheduling dates.
For many sports, including track and swimming, the Olympic postponement plays havoc on their own events. The track worlds were supposed to take place next year from Aug. 6-15 — dates that are likely to fall within the rescheduled Olympics.
But Coe said pushing the normally biennial worlds in Eugene to 2022 and creating a long stretch of having a global track championships every summer is possible, and maybe even a good thing.
“You may have a cluster. You may have world championships in consecutive years where we wouldn’t normally have had that. But for athletes, it’s not such a bad thing,” Coe said. “To go from 2021 Olympic Games into two editions of the world championships, ‘22 — possibly ’22 — ’23 we’re in Budapest, and then into the Olympic Games in Paris in ’24.
“It would offer athletics center stage at a very public point of the year. So let’s look at it from a slightly optimistic way of being able to punch our sport into the homes of many more people over a four-year consecutive cycle.”
The 2025 world championships, which haven’t yet been assigned a host, would stretch that to five straight years.
In any case, a reshuffled schedule would likely include Eugene forfeiting the worlds in 2021 and hosting them in 2022.
“Absolutely committed that the world championships (are) in Eugene, no question about that,” said Coe, who came under intense criticism when the city was awarded the event because of his ties to sportswear company Nike, which was founded there.
The possible and probable year-long delay for the Olympics, and consequently the tracks worlds, also means a year without a big payday for World Athletics. All sports on the games program receive a splash of cash from the IOC in Olympic years, but that isn’t likely to happen his year.
“Every federation will be confronting cash-flow issues, particularly around broadcast rights, and there needs to be some clarity around that. We take nothing for granted. This is a very uncertain world,” Coe said, before later sounding more upbeat.
“Financially — I’m not being sanguine about it — we’re OK.”