Wednesday, April 8, 2009

IAAF World Cross Country Championships in trouble...

Just got tipped off to a post in The Standard stating that the IAAF World Cross Country Championships (photo above of 2009 men's junior race in Amman, Jordan by Paul Merca) are in trouble due to dwindling sponsorships and a lack of countries willing to bid/host the event.

The article states that the event will most likely happen every two years, as opposed to every year.

During a luncheon honoring the Kenyan national team, Isiah Kiplagat, an IAAF Council member and head of Athletics Kenya, said, "The future of the World Cross country championship is currently not certain because no country is willing to host the event and it is lacking sponsorship. This has prompted IAAF to hold it after every two years instead of annually."

" Next year’s event set for Bydgoszcz, Poland will go on as planned but after that, the event will be held after a span of two years and we will decide the next host during the 12th IAAF World championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany between August 15 and 23," he said.

While attending the pre-meet press conference for the world cross country championships in Amman a few weeks ago, I had a sinking suspicion that the IAAF was considering going this route, as IAAF Secretary General Pierre Weiss danced around a reporter's question from the floor asking about future world cross country championship events.

He said words to the effect that there were two cities expressing interest in bidding for the 2011 world championships, one of which was in Australia; however, he also said something to the effect that the world cross country championships were to the point that if the event couldn't match the quality of the other events the IAAF puts on, then it would have to seriously consider its other options, one of which is to hold it every two years.

Inside sources say that it would take at least $3 million to hold a world cross country championships in the United States. To compound matters, the local organizing committee of whatever city chooses to host it must bankroll among other things, the worldwide television feed of the event, pay any US taxes on prize monies won by foreign athletes (the same holdup that forced the Carson folks to give up the 2006 World Cup to Athens, Greece), and housing for several dozen IAAF dignitaries, and sponsors (the full list would almost be another post in itself!).

From a television standpoint, the world cross country championships have not been a good property, partly due to the dominance of the African nations-notably Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea-along with a reluctance in recent years for European nations to send full squads to compete in the meet.

Bottom line--any local US organizing committee (and not the US government, USA Track & Field, or the IAAF) wishing to host this event would be on the hook for cost overruns associated with this event.

PS--If the world cross were to go every two years, the world famous football would have to take a year off from traveling...:-(

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