USA: world beaters, not world's host in track and field
BEIJING -- Lamine Diack keeps hoping for an outdoor world track and field championships in the United States.
"My dream before leaving office (2011) is to allocate a world championships to the United States,'' said Diack, the Senegalese president of the IAAF, the governing body of international track.
That would mean the 2015 worlds, which are to be awarded in 2010.
There have been 11 world meets since the event began in 1983 -- eight in Europe, two in Japan, one in Canada.
Diack, like many others, cannot understand how the United States can be the leading medal-winning nation in the world for track and field but be unwilling to host the world meet.
There are two problems:
1. Lack of a good venue with 50,000 or more seats (and room to install a track) for the event, the largest world championship (in number of athletes) in an OIympic sport.
2. The cost of staging it.
Were Chicago to win the 2016 Olympics, could it also be host of the 2015 worlds as a dress rehearsal -- presuming the largely temporary Olympic stadium could be built in time?
"I don't expect it, but why not?'' Diack said.
While the International Olympic Committee vote on the 2016 host precedes the decision on the 2015 track world championships, a Chicago expression of willingness to have the track event could help its position in the Olympic balloting.
"I don't want to get into that discussion, because I am an IOC member,'' Diack said.
Of course, it is unlikely Chicago would want to take on the worlds as its track "test event'' because of the scope and size of the undertaking. But the city could also intimate it would keep the stadium in place for 2017 or 2019.
"Our focus now is on bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, and it would be both too early and to presumptive to predict when the stadium would be on line,'' said Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky. "If we do have the Olympics, we would, of course, want to leave a legacy of as many athletic events as possible, both before and after.''
On the financial part, Diack thinks both the U.S. Olympic Committee and government entities should pitch in to pick up part of the tab.
Like many international sports officials, Diack relates that to another issue: The USOC needs to give up some of the money it gets as its share of global Olympic sponsorship and TV rights, which adds up to more than the shares of the other 204 national Olympic committees combined.
"International federation officials say, 'Why do we have to finance American sport? Why is the government not putting in something?' " Diack said.
Peter Ueberroth, USOC chairman, and Bob Ctvrtlik, vice president for international relations, held a meeting with International Olympic Committee officials here last week on that ongoing irritant in USOC-IOC relations.
"Nothing has been resolved as yet,'' USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said Friday.
Seibel said the USOC would be interested in lending financial support to a world championships.
"It is difficult to say what our commitment could be,'' Seibel said. "It has to make financial sense.''
Diack was frustrated when he awarded the 2006 track World Cup, a three-day event, to the United States, only to have the deal fall through for lack of the $500,000 needed to provide a world broadcast feed. He vainly asked the USOC for help at a moment (April 2004) when the USOC still was reeling financially and organizationally from the turmoil of the previous year in its upper management.
Athens took over as 2006 World Cup host of an event that was originally scheduled for the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"It is the president's wish to promote our sport in the United States, so he gave this competition as a gift to the USA,'' said Pierre Weiss, the IAAF's general secretary, or CEO. "But we never found a solution to sign the contract.
"We went to (inspect) Carson as if we would go. When time was passing, we had to find another place. For us, it was a frustrating.''
Diack met with new USA Track & Field CEO Doug Logan within hours of Logan's arrival in Beijing. The IAAF president had been in Eugene, Ore., during the U.S. Olympic trials, which took place just before Logan was named the USATF boss.
"Your trials are more difficult than the Olympics,'' Diack said. "It is more difficult to be part of the U.S. team than to win a gold medal here.''
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: IAAF President Lamine Diack. Credit: Michel Spingler / Associated Press