Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to the real world--final observations from Moscow...

In my semi-sleep deprived state on Monday's flight from Moscow to Amsterdam, and on to Seattle, I managed to put together some random thoughts and observations on the IAAF world track & field championships--some may be valid, and others may just be off the wall. You can take it and thank or rip me later!

When you go to a big event like this, you go knowing what you signed up for, and that includes the fact that six hours of sleep is a luxury, and that you'll be at the stadium early before the gates are open to the public, and that you'll most likely be out of there after the last fans have left--then again, those super-fans are the ones standing outside the press entrance waiting for their heroes to come out of the stadium to be transported to their hotel or to drug testing; curiously enough, the press entrance to Luzhniki Stadium and the exit for athletes to go to their hotel after their press conference or drug testing were next to each other.

Here we go:

--Crowds improved over the course of the meet, but was surprised by the number of empty seats for the 100m final with Usain Bolt.  Maybe because of Moscow's size, the meet got lost in the shuffle--I don't know the answer.

--The Ukrainians brought it to the meet.  Really loved the fact that Ukrainians bought at least four sections of seats for every session of the meet, and you knew where they were sitting, as all of them had plain yellow and blue shirts, and when all in their section, formed the flag of the Ukraine.

--It seems as if a lot of younger Muscovites look like super hot models, and guys you'd hire as bouncers at your bar, an observation made by Jason Henderson of Athletics Weekly, who I met after picking up my credential the day before the meet.  There was a lot of quality sightseeing during my time in Moscow, and I'm not referring to Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb, or the GUM department store!

This is not the Russia your mom & dad and the pre 1990s US  media taught you to hate. I don't know if its a cultural thing, but they could learn to smile more.

--There are a lot of folks driving around in nice cars, including Mercedes, BMW, Lincoln Navigators, Lexus, etc.

--At least in Moscow, there aren't a lot of obese folks. Having to walk fast to get to subway stops helps.  I must say that I did a lot of walking in and around Moscow, whether it was in & out of the subway, and certainly in the Luzhniki Olympic complex.

--The Moscow subway system is amazingly efficient. However, you really need to learn the Cyrillic alphabet & Russian. It's not foreigner friendly.  The Moscow city guide I bought before the trip did not get much use.

--The distance between main press center and stadium was at least 600 meters, which is fine unless you're lugging cameras and a laptop.  I went as far as to use my Nike GPS Sportwatch to time and measure how far I walked from the stadium to the press center to check out and return my Nikon camera gear.

--American middle distance running is certainly on the rise. Centrowith/Martinez/Simpson/Symmonds all earned medals in the 800 and 1500 meter races.  You can argue that with better tactics, the name Montano could easily be substituted for Martinez, as she led the finals of the 800 for almost all but the last 80 meters.

--Could this be Bernard Lagat's last worlds?  At 38 years of age, he is still the best America has to offer, but in the last 100 meters of the men's 5000 finals, the youngsters took a page out of Lagat's kick-and-win manual and turned the tables on him, despite the fact that he was perfectly positioned exiting the final turn.

--The youngsters like Mary Cain (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Ajee Wilson are the real deal. Unless she really wants the college experience, Cain is better off not running for an NCAA institution.

--The Brad Walker case (NY Times) goes to demonstrate that the shoe companies and the IAAF have way too much power over the athletes. Unless you are at the very top in the sprints and distances and maybe certain jumps, chances are you aren't making much money as a pro track & field athlete. 

As folks like Nick Symmonds brought to light last year, it's hard to market yourself within the current framework (i.e, working with non traditional sponsors). The shoe companies aren't going to allow a second sponsor's logo on their kits.

--Choco Pies are the greatest Russian snacks!

--Finally, it's nice to get recognized for the work you do with the web site, especially by foreign peers. At the media hotel on the final evening of the meet, I was approached by a random foreign journalist who has followed the blog for several years, and complimented me.  And oh, by the way, asked if I knew how to get in touch with Alberto Salazar for an interview :-)

Before wrapping up Moscow, I must give a shout out to the media and photo folks at the Moscow 2013 organizing committee, along with USA Track & Field and the IAAF for a great job.  I also want to thank the folks at Nikon for the use of the pro level D4 camera and lenses that helped bring some of the great images captured.

Finally, I'd like to thank the many reporters, writers, photographers, and fans that I met during my stay in Moscow.


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