Seeking the spotlight, athletics takes a leap in the dark
Paris: With traditional competition shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, athletics has begun experimenting with imaginative and unusual ways to ensure that, somehow, the show goes on.
The Olympics and European Championships have been postponed and there no traditional meetings are scheduled until the Diamond League in Monaco on August 14, yet there has been a steady stream of creative initiatives to allow competition.
There have been long-distance pole-vault showdowns and solo races against the clock.
Micro meetings are planned and, in a sport built on direct competition, promoters of traditional meetings are looking at ways to stage meaningful one-runner races in arenas where no hands are clapping.
“In this period when nothing is happening, there is no bad idea, apart from taking health risks,” Remy Charpentier, the organiser of the Monaco meeting, told AFP.
The postponed London Marathon launched the 2.6 Challenge in which participants attempted solo events based on that number. Some sat in cornflakes, Mo Farah swung from a climbing frame but others ran or rolled.
Three of the world’s leading pole vaulters managed to compete while staying at home with the Ultimate Garden Challenge on May 3 as Swede Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis, the world record holder, took on Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, and two-time US world champion Sam Kendricks.
Watched, World Athletics estimated, by more than a million people worldwide, Duplantis, jumping in his back garden in his native Louisiana and Lavillenie, in Clermont-Ferrand, both cleared a bar set at 5 metres 36 times in 30 minutes while Kendricks, in Mississippi, managed 26.
“It’s already huge even to be able to do exhibitions again,” Lavillenie told AFP, adding that he was surprised to have felt “a little bit of adrenaline” with this ersatz competition.
The format was duplicated by three of the world’s top women vaulters jumping at their training grounds with Greek Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi beating American Katie Nageotte and Canadian Alysha Newman.
As the lockdown eases in some parts of Europe, ‘Flight Night’ involving four German pole vaulters, is planned at a drive-in cinema in Dusseldorf on June 12 while six micro-meetings have been scheduled in the Czech Republic.
Those will start in Kladno on June 1 with three events — women’s javelin, men’s shot put and men’s 300m — on the announced schedule.

  • ‘Athletics of 2030’ –
    In addition to “private” initiatives, the big meetings are looking for a way to keep the show going, which is a problem in events where athletes compete at the same time.
    The Oslo Diamond League event, on June 11, has been renamed “the Impossible Games” and will operate “in full observation of Norway’s coronavirus regulations and social distancing rules.”
    The hour-long made-for-TV event will again feature Duplantis who will be at the Bislett stadium as will Norwegian Sondre Guttormsen while Lavillenie will vault in his French garden. – AFP