Sometimes something might not necessarily be right in one sense, and yet be necessary just the same in another. That seems to be the grounding principle being applied in Doha, Qatar at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.
As the championships began yesterday, the extreme heat and humidity that defines that part of the world completely overwhelmed the women’s marathon to a degree that 41% of the field dropped out. The medals probably wouldn’t have changed much in another more traditional venue, as the very best runners did emerge. But contesting a marathon in ultra high heat and humidity in the middle of the night isn’t anyone’s idea of a proper test to determine the world’s best. But such are the trade offs in staging the games in a new part of the world.
We saw the same ‘not necessarily right, but necessary’ ethic being applied before the games as well when qualified athletes like two-time Olympic 1500 meter medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand were substituted out for unqualified athletes from countries without representation.
In both cases, staging and participation, something was given up on the high-end in order to spread the base at the low end. It’s not necessarily right in the sense that athletics is supposedly pure in its goal – citius, altius, fortius irrespective of skin color, religious affiliation or national origin. This is especially so at the pinnacle event in the sport.
Yet if that purity-alone metric had been applied consistently over time, women would never have been allowed to enter the arena in the first place because they would never have reached existing male-based standards.
So in order to grow the sport, trade offs in staging and participation become necessary though they aren’t necessarily right in their particular moment. Such are the hard determinations of leadership.
Or, in this case, did the IAAF (under now disgraced former prez Lamine Diack) just chase all that Qatari moolah and see all the athletes as just collateral damage? Because what really are the chances Qatar ever becomes anything other than a hotbed as opposed to a hotbed of track and field? Empty seats tell their own tale.
I wondered the same thing after learning that the Wanda Group has inked a ten-year title sponsorship deal with the IAAF Diamond League Tour beginning in 2020, adding athletics to their Ironman Triathlon and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series portfolios.
Is it necessarily healthy that so many related sports are gathered under the same commercial umbrella? That question also arose after USATF signed Nike to a generation-long sponsorship deal when part of the governing body’s oversight responsibility involves Nike and their competitor’s equipment and athletes.
But such are the realities of maintaining and trying to grow sports in this day and age. What’s necessary doesn’t always fall neatly into line with what’s necessarily right. And isn’t that the question the House Judiciary Committee is taking up currently in Washington D.C.?
And so it goes.