Track and field needs real promotion

June 15, 2018
A beaming Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce after winning the women's 100m in 11.10 seconds at the JN/Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium last Saturday.

Track and field is a sport I have loved since childhood. I wasn't very good at it, but I do a pretty decent job of watching. Over the years, I have met some of the sport's greatest stars Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, Ben Johnson, Ato Boldon, Maurice Greene, Shaunae Miller-Uibo and many, many others.

There is no other sport as pure as track and field. It is simply about who is the fastest, who can throw the farthest, who can jump the longest and the highest.

However, over the decades, for reasons too many to mention here, track and field has fallen down the pecking order of the world's most popular sports.

These days, the sport is desperately trying to remain relevant, and a lot of that, for me, comes down to how the sport is being administered. Between 2008 and 2017, one man, Usain Bolt, literally carried the sport on his shoulders. Now that he is gone, the sport has begun to struggle once more.

That, as I mentioned previously, is due to a glaring absence of creative marketing and public relations.

Take, for example, this Athletics World Cup that is to be held in London this summer.

The competition will involve the top eight countries in the world, based on their ranking at the last world championships held in London last year. Since it was announced in February, I have asked a number of the world's leading athletes whether they are planning to participate, and what I get in response are looks of bewilderment.

It was so clear recently when I posed the question to Noah Lyles, Fred Kerley, Danielle Thomas-Dodd, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Kirani James, Yohan Blake, and Natoya Goule while they were in Jamaica for the Racers Grand Prix.

Most looked at each other as if asking, 'what the hell is he talking about?'. Thomas-Dodd said more needs to be said about the competition and to engage the athletes who are likely to be competing.

Just this week, I asked Javon Francis about the Athletics World Cup, and he also had no idea what it was.

This is four months after the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) made the announcement.

Now, if the athletes don't even know about it, how will the fans ever be engaged? The IAAF needs to get its act together. They are often too silent for too long, and this is not helping the sport they govern.

They need to be much more aggressive to ensure that fans are aware of what new innovations are about. they need to ensure they have match-ups people want to see, and they need to find star athletes to promote kind of like when Bolt was around.

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