Tag: Lamine Diack

BARSHIM FINALLY FILLS THE HOUSE

Flag-waving fans come to cheer the hometown hero

The IAAF World Championships finally soared last night, looking and feeling more like a world championships of old. It took till day eight of ten, but with a world record push in the women’s 400 hurdles, an epic drive in the men’s 3000 meter steeplechase, and an arcing, come from behind win by the home country hero in the men’s high jump, all performed before a rollicking flag-waving crowd, this Doha version of the IAAF World Athletics Championships truly became a member of the World Champs family of venues.

Throughout the first week, though, a major story line had been the  embarrassingly empty Khalifa Stadium.  Leading up, the IAAF had been defensive about the lack of ticket sales -reportedly only 50,000 were sold for the full  10 days – as critics pointed to past IAAF President Lamine Diack as having sold the meet to Qatar for personal rather than sporting purposes.

But it will be interesting to see if the wonderful atmosphere of day 8 can be reproduced on the last two days of competition. Because it wasn’t hard to figure why Day 8 stood out. Undoubtedly, it was the result of one man, Qatar’s own Mutaz Essa Barshim, the high jump superstar and 2017 world champion.

The Man – Mutaz Essa Barshim

In the previous seven days, the only time the crowds really came in numbers was when Kenyan and Ethiopian runners were performing in the distance events. And even then, officials had to paper the stadium (free tickets) to attract them.

As athletics attempts to get beyond the corruption and PED issues that have haunted the sport for so long and address the multiple challenges ahead, one thing to consider is that we don’t have track and field fans, we have track and/or field event fans. Only the most die-hard amongst us enjoy the entire panoply of events.

We saw this most strikingly just a few years ago in Sacramento at the USATF nationals where the penultimate event of the meet was the men’s 100-meter final followed by the 5000 meters. The second the 100 was finished, 98% of the stadium got up and left, leaving only the 5000-meter fans to muster along the rail for the last event of the evening.

So what we had were sprint fans and distance fans commingling. But as if in a centrifuge, they were quickly separated once the sprint fans had their measure and left.

Appealing to the next generation

When US national championships and the World Championships, two of the greatest athletics meetings ever, can’t draw casual fans, that’s a sign of a major problem.

The sport is littered with great athletes. Hopefully, the marketing folks at IAAF will come up with some novel solutions and not have to wait for another Barshim in Qatar or Usain Bolt everywhere else to come along to hold the game together between controversies.

END

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WHEN NECESSARY ISN’T NECESSARILY RIGHT

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. (more…)

THE DRIP, DRIP, DRIP OF SCANDAL

WADA Independent Commission Report 2015
WADA Independent Commission Report 2015

So on the same day that WADA unanimously declares Kenya non-compliant with its anti-doping code, thereby threatening the East African running juggernaut with exclusion from this summer’s Rio Olympics (along with Russia, which was also declared non-compliant last November) we also have word that  organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic bid were alleged to have made a “seven-figure payment” to an account controlled by the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, who, himself,  was arrested last year by French authorities on corruption and money laundering charges, over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheaters.  And the beat just goes on and on and on.

Sebastion Coe Rebuilding Trust
IAAF President Sebastian Coe (Getty Images)

I don’t know, maybe Sebastian Coe is the IAAF’s last best chance.  But these latest two bombshells make you wonder if anyone involved in this filthy sport can truly be the cleansing agent needed to disinfect the body politic?

And perhaps that reflects how bad the situation really is. Looking at the entirety of the WADA Independent Commission report, along with Commission chair Dick Pound’s subsequent public support for Seb Coe as new IAAF president, the only judgement one can make is that there seems to be little appetite for the kind of wholesale reconstruction that these reports suggest is necessary.  (more…)

PEACE FOR OUR TIME REDUX

"Peace for our time." - Neville Chamberlain
“Peace for our time.” – Neville Chamberlain

We heard it in September 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich announcing “Peace for our time” after meeting with Chancellor Hitler regarding Germany’s takeover of the Czech Sudetenland.

Considering Hitler invaded Poland a year later to kick off World War II, Chamberlain’s pronouncement stands as gold medal winner in the “Ooops” competition in World Political Assessments Olympics. But it sounds like we just heard something vaguely similar coming out of Munich again today in regards the ongoing IAAF Corruption Scandal

After a scathing indictment of the IAAF came out last November in his original WADA-commissioned report outlining institutional corruption, extortion and widespread drug abuse in the Russian athletics’ federation, founding WADA president Dick Pound announced that today’s follow up report would go even farther and include a “wow factor” revelation.

As you can imagine, alarm clocks were set and seats were arranged around computers worldwide to hear the latest nefariousness and watch for any potential perp walks. After all the wickedness these princes of power had put the sport through for so long, here was the coup de grace about to come down.

So what the hell happened? Where, exactly, was the “wow factor”? The only wow I heard was my own exclamation after Mr. Pound made a screeching 180-degree turn on his own Independent Commission’s report. (more…)

COE ATTEMPTS TO WALK IAAF OFF THE LEDGE

IAAF President Sebastian Coe (Getty Image)
IAAF President Sebastian Coe (Getty Image)

And so it begins, the inevitable PR moon walk by the new IAAF president as he tries to draw back from the cliff of doom that revelations of corruption and greed have brought his organization to as 2015 bleeds into 2016.

Yesterday, IAAF president Sebastian Coe offered a road map for Rebuilding Trust in a press statement released from IAAF headquarters in Monaco. In it Coe commented: “Be under no illusion about how seriously I take these issues.”

(more…)

THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS

Last year at this time I was in Durban, South Africa to give a keynote address at a Global Athletics Conference (GAC 2014)Ato Boldon was the conference emcee, and he opened with “if you love something, you are supposed to be critical of it.” With that in mind, some thoughts on the eventful goings on in this second week of November 2015.

WADA Report 2015WADA’s scathing report on the systematic drug abuse and perfidy within Russian athletics wasn’t just an indictment of one federation. Coming on the heels of the arrest of former IAAF President Lamine Diack by French authorities for allegedly taking bribes to cover up drug offenses, the WADA Report simply underlined the scope of the moral crisis facing the sport. (more…)

IAAF PRESIDENT NOMINATED FOR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

 

IAAF president Lamine Diack
IAAF president Lamine Diack

The Norwegian Nobel Committee today has announced that IAAF president Lamine Diack of Senegal has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for his and his organization’s long and unwavering leadership in the promotion of cooperation through running around the world.

“The Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between health, fitness and peace,” said a committee spokesman in announcing the selection. “Such connections are a prerequisite for the fraternity between nations of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.”

Over the past several decades the IAAF has made enormous progress in creating and sustaining running initiatives throughout the world, even as it hopes to culminate those efforts with their proposed Israeli-Palestinian Friendship Marathon Relay, which yearns to bring the long-time enemies into accord through the “Runners Without Borders” program.  The event would symbolically use as its finish line the proposed permanent border between Israel and the Palestinian state.

“No matter the differences between people, the act of running has been instrumental in showing us all the commonality rather than differences between us,” said Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee. “The IAAF has shown us all what’s possible in the realm of human cooperation through international sport. We would also like to make special note of the work done by the IAAF’s 212 national governing body members, which have become the ne plus ultra of competence and forward thinking. What would the athletes of the world do without them? We can only imagine.”   (more…)