Monday, August 3, 2009

Time for the US to Step Up and Host a World Championships

With two weeks until Worlds and no other meets to look forward to, my mind is now fixated on the World Championships and Berlin.

The World Championships have been a staple in Europe since its' inception in 1983. So far eleven renditions of the meet have been held and all but three of those have been on the European continent - the other three were held in Japan (twice) and Canada.

The thing that I find most interesting is that not once has the event been hosted by the United States. In the twenty six years that the World Championships have been in existence the US has hosted two Olympic Games (Los Angeles, 1983 and Atlanta, 1996) and is currently a finalist in the bids for the 2016 Games. But we have yet to play host to the World Championships.

Rather ironic when one takes into consideration that we are routinely at the top of the medal charts come Worlds. We lead the way on the track, its time we stepped up to lead the way off the track. Hosting the World Championships is one way to take a step towards that lead position - not to mention the benefits it would have for the sport here in the US.

Hosting the Worlds would bring the sport's top track and field athletes to the United States. Not just one or two at a time, but an entire week of the best in the world competing right here at home. And with New York and Eugene becoming members of the new Diamond League and these meets moving to the summer, we could see a huge bump in the number of top level athletes participating in these meets as well! The end result would be three VERY high class track competitions taking place on US soil. The level of which is typically only seen in Europe.

There is no greater way to bring the sport to life here in the United States. Soccer experienced a huge rise in popularity in the US during the mid to late 90's - due in large part to the FIFA World Cup being hosted by the United States for the first time in 1994. Since then we have hosted the Women's World Cup in 1999 and 2003 - further strengthening soccer's image in this country and maintaining the fervor that the sport enjoys here. Hosting the World Championships in Track and Field could pay the same sort of dividends in terms of popularity and awareness of the sport in this country.

And now would be a most opportune time to place such a bid. President Obama is a big sports fan and just last week met with the head of FIFA to lobby on behalf of the US effort to host another World Cup. So it is conceivable that his aid could be enlisted in putting together a bid to host the World Championships of Track and Field.

We're long overdue. Our athletes are showcased all over the world, its time to showcase them right here at home. And in spite of our placings in meets all over the world including the Olympics and Worlds, I do not believe that the rest of the world takes us seriously as the "leader" in the sport. Hosting a Worlds would go a long way towards overcoming some of the negativity that has come our way over the past decade and assuming a leadership position internationally. It's time to step up and make that move.

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