Now that the Olympic flame has been extinguished in London, the time has come to consider the lessons learned and to plot the road ahead. Certainly, Team U.S. A.’s track and field medal haul of 29 deserves high praise, especially given the wide swatch they cut through all disciplines and distances, sprints to distance, throws to jumps. On the far side of the track there was the modest number of distance-only medals returning to Kenya (11) based on their own high expectations. But both those evaluations and interests are parochial in nature. What of the overall place of Athletics (track & field) in the Olympic movement going forward, especially to Rio in 2016?
Red flags should have been raised in Beijing 2008 when NBC lobbied the IOC to move track out of the primetime viewing slot in the U.S. so they could show more swimming and gymnastics live. And this favoring of less-martial,more female-oriented sports was in even greater evidence in London. Not only did Ryan Seacrest make his Olympic debut, but with women making up more than 50% of the U.S. Olympic team for the first time, the interest in fashion and glitter hit an all-time high. So what comes to my mind is the question of track’s relevance within those new parameters. Continue reading