Hubert Lawrence | A new Athletics World Cup
Track fans will rave about the new Athletics World Cup until they see the dates. It promises to spice up the athletics scene in a season when there is no major global Championships. Truth be told, the entrepreneurs who put this new meet together should get a pat on the back.
With the incomparable Usain Bolt gone, new thinking is required to pull fans in. The new Athletics World Cup nevertheless bears a stark resemblance to the old IAAF World Cup started in 1977. Both arrived for the same reason.
The old World Cup filled the gap between Olympic Games with a summit meeting of the world's best and this version does the same between one World Championships-Olympics-World Championships cycle and the next. Each has a finals only team format. The team with the most points wins in both cases.
The only World Cup started in 1977 and went every two years until the World Championships started in 1983. Then it had to hopscotch to season closing dates. Too often, athletes got there weary and it showed in their performances. Now it lives on as the Continental Cup.
The new World Cup is different. It is set for July 14 and 15 to coincide with that period when athletes are peaking. Instead of competition between teams from the continents, namely the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania, it is the top eight nations who will do battle for the title of World Team Champion in the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Though individual World Champions like Karsten Warholm of Norway, Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, Mutaz Essar Barshim of Qatar, New Zealander Tom Walsh, Dafne Schippers of Holland, Sandra Perkovic of Croatia, Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela and Australian Sally Pearson can't compete because their countries aren't in the top eight as reckoned by the 2017 IAAF World Championship placing table, prospects are juicy. As Dr Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association said last week, "Any competition among the top athletes of the world is bound to be exciting."
He's on to something. In any case, a World Champions wild card would solve this especially for a venue with nine lanes like London.
Helen Obiri, Kenya's exciting World 5000 metres champion and her compatriot Conselius Kiprutu, the World and Olympic men's steeplechase winner, are eliminated because there are no races longer than 1500 metres on the new meet's schedule. That too could be remedied.
The only real trouble is the date. The FIFA World Cup comes to a climax on July 15 and surely no other World Cup can match its pull on the attention of fans and television viewers around the globe. Even the most ardent track and field fans will find it a hard choice.
The new Athletics World Cup may not be completely new but the two-day finals-only battle among Jamaica, China, France, Great Britain, Kenya, Poland, South Africa and the United States is an enticing concept. A date shift away from the FIFA World Cup final could give it the viewership it deserves.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.