By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Distance races are expected to continue at Oregon’s Prefontaine Classic and also at other meetings even though the Diamond League is dropping events longer than 3,000 metres from its globally televised programme in 2020, officials say.
“When we are back at the new Hayward Field I imagine that we would have the distance night on Friday as we have had in the past that could feature a 10,000 metres, could feature a 5,000 metres, or could feature one of each for men and women,” Tom Jordan, meeting director of the Diamond League’s Prefontaine Classic, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“We are certainly going to play to our base and that is middle and long distance plus virtually every event,” added Jordan, whose meet is moving to the San Francisco area this year while a new stadium is built in Eugene for the 2021 world championships.
The sport’s governing IAAF announced on Monday that beginning in 2020 the number of Diamond League disciplines will be cut from 32 to 24 with 12 each for men and women and the longest event on the circuit’s televised programme will be 3,000 metres.
But that does not prevent meetings from holding other events, according to Jordan and the International Association of Athletics Federations CEO Jon Ridgeon.
Along with a 90-minute international window for television broadcasts, “DL Meetings will also offer a further 30 minutes plus of additional coverage to their own domestic broadcaster, which will include extra domestic-themed events,” Ridgeon said in a statement.
“If deemed to be of sufficient quality, this additional coverage will also be offered to the International broadcasters if they wish to take it.”
The changes are part of an effort to develop a faster and more concentrated format that is more attractive to audiences.
The plans brought immediate disapproval from athletics officials in distance-oriented Ethiopia and Kenya.
“It is a sad decision that will disproportionately affect Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as East Africa as a whole,” Ethiopian running great Haile Gebrselassie told Reuters.
Barnaba Korir, chairman of the Athletics Kenya Nairobi region, said track and field would lose its historical significance and financial incentives if the long distances were dropped.
“Historically, the longer distances were the pillar of track and field. Marathon was the pride of the Olympics, and 5,000m and 10,000m races were what made track and field interesting,” the former 10,000m and road runner told Reuters.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; editing by Ken Ferris)