Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

LONDON — Keep it simple, stupid, Bill Clinton would have advised, and here is the problem with track and field, exemplified with this weekend’s first Athletics World Cup back at Olympic Stadium

This meet sought so desperately to be so many things — too many things — to so many people on so many levels. 

Organizers tried to put together a world-class meet in about six months though the schedule of world sport is already jammed to the max, the calendar of track and field is itself a mess and, maybe, most of all, it’s unclear how a meet like this can draw the world’s best runners, jumpers and throwers in a way that everyone — and in particular, a wide range of athletes — can make money. Real money.

That last bit requires a further set of questions, all fundamental. Track and field is a professional sport. What is a reasonable payday? For a star? For someone who is in his or her first pro meet? For someone who, say, runs the open 400 meters as opposed to someone who runs but a leg in a relay? For someone who pulls double duty? Should the pay standards be different for track athletes and those in the field events? 

Switching gears: who thought a trophy should cost $400,000, and why?

So many threads. Pull, and it’s clear why the tapestry of track and field is at once so beautiful and so frayed.

Eyes on the (2028) prize

Eyes on the (2028) prize

If the weekend seems a long way away for most if not many of you, 2028 probably seems like Pluto, the farthest reaches of your personal universe.

In Olympic time, however, 2028 is already on the horizon, and the days and weeks are already slipping by. These next 10 years are the imperative for the United States Olympic Committee and, indeed, for all who would understand the transformative potential of those Los Angeles Summer Games.

The USOC must — must — keep its eye on the prize.

That’s what it did Thursday in naming Sarah Hirshland, chief commercial officer of the U.S. Golf Association, its chief executive officer.

'Focus' on 2024, 2026 and Tom and Tammy Taxpayer

'Focus' on 2024, 2026 and Tom and Tammy Taxpayer

Once more, it is time to re-visit Tom and Tammy Taxpayer, this time in Italy, Austria or Sweden and maybe even Canada. (Their kindred souls in Japan are already paying out the nose. Friends in Turkey have an entirely different set of issues.)

At any rate, Tom and Tammy are back to mulling the notion that the International Olympic Committee wants to come to town. The Winter Games! 2026!

Here are three news items, one from Thursday, the others from the past few weeks. 

What impact are these items likely to have on Tom and Tammy, and what common-sense steps can — no, should — the IOC take to help convince Tom and Tammy that a yes vote on the inevitable referendum can make them, their neighbors and their friends feel good about sipping a mountainside espresso the morning after opening ceremony in February 2026?

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

Mike Rodgers ran the 100 meters in 9.89 seconds in the preliminary rounds of the U.S. track and field national championships Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

It was the fastest 100 meters, anywhere in the world, so far in 2018.

This raises several questions.

Why is Rodgers running that fast in — the prelims? 

Why, moreover, is a 33-year-old Mike Rodgers running in the 9.8s again after a 2017 that saw him run a best 10-flat and a 9.97 in 2016?

Rodgers ran 9.92 in Prague on June 4. And — here is the inexplicable thing about professional track and field — it has to be asked: why he is running that fast in 2018? For what reason?

Pride gets no one paid. Respect is awesome, and 9.89 is respectfully quick. But, again, track is a professional sport. 

And this is what in track circles is called an “off-year.” There’s no Olympics, no world championships. 

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

When our youngest daughter was just 18 months old, we were at a friend’s house here in Los Angeles. In the back was an unfenced pool. In a flash, she had toddled out to the pool and jumped in. Alertly, my wife ran across the house and jumped in — fully clothed — after her.

Another story. When I worked at the LA Times, we were at a party down in Orange County with some newspaper friends. We were all much younger parents then, and there were all kinds of little children around. I happened to be on duty at the hot tub when one of the kids, who was just 2, just that fast, sank to the bottom. I fished her out. 

Our daughter went on to do years and years at the LA County junior lifeguard program and a couple days ago finished her freshman year at Northwestern. That 2-year-old just graduated from Michigan.

These stories have happy endings. 

Way, way, way too many don’t.  

Please: let’s come together in the aftermath of the sorrowful drowning death of 19-month-old Emeline Miller, daughter of Olympic ski star Bode and his wife, Morgan, the professional volleyball player.

Let Emmy’s death be a call to action.

Dumb and counter-productive: criminalizing doping in international sports

Dumb and counter-productive: criminalizing doping in international sports

Congress does some really dumb stuff. And we are purportedly awash in, to use the term of the moment, fake news.

That said, It’s almost hard to know which is more irresponsible, the dumb proposal introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives that aims to criminalize doping in international sports, or news accounts of the bill, particularly in the New York Times.

This bill isn’t anything resembling sound public policy. It’s political revenge porn. 

The odds of it becoming law, meanwhile, are slim, and any attempt at fair and balanced reporting ought to have started there. 

Along with a host of other reasonable observations grounded in, you know, fact. Or reasonable conclusion. 

Death, taxes and the crash-and-burn Olympic referendum

Death, taxes and the crash-and-burn Olympic referendum

As it is the year 2018, three things in life are certain: death, taxes and defeat by referendum of a proposal to stage an Olympic Games.

Whoops. Strike that. Make that four: the International Olympic Committee’s consistently tone-deaf response to voters’ rejection.

Make no mistake:

For the IOC, rejection Sunday by voters in the Swiss canton of Valais of a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Games by Sion — very near the IOC headquarters in Lausanne — amounts to a full-on crisis.

Shades of meaning, and a path forward

Shades of meaning, and a path forward

It’s a familiar refrain that in long-lasting marriages the husband wakes up every morning and, first thing, says to his loving bride: I’m sorry. For what? Anything. Everything. Whatever.

In American public life, meanwhile, there is a familiar — more, expected if not demanded — ritual of contrition that must be performed as a condition of potential redemption. First and foremost: there must be an apology. Those two words — I’m sorry — must be said in earnest and, similarly, meant for real. 

This brings us to international relations, in this context sports politics, in particular the sporting authorities who operate in the Olympic space, almost all of whom are connected to their governments in some or significant fashion. Such diplomacy rarely comes packaged in a simple declarative as straightforward as, I’m sorry. Diplomacy relies on semantics, on nuance, on shades of meaning.

These things make the International Olympic Committee go around. They make the World Anti-Doping Agency work, too. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.  

In that spirit, a recent letter sent by senior Russian authorities to WADA president Craig Reedie — with copies to IOC president Thomas Bach and International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons — offers everyone a way forward in a multilayered dispute that has been going on now for years. To pretend otherwise is, similarly, to ignore reality.

Real culture change, real funding, less rhetoric

Real culture change, real funding, less rhetoric

Takeaways from Wednesday’s hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sparked by the Larry Nassar case:

— The NFL anthem protest policy was announced literally in the middle of the Congressional hearing. So no matter how important this hearing, it was immediately dwarfed by the NFL. That is a hard truth in the American sporting and cultural landscape. 

— The cues were clear before Wednesday’s session that Congress seems remarkably disinclined to undertake a wholesale restructuring of the Olympic system in the United States. To reiterate a point made over and again in this space: the U.S. Olympic Committee is not boss of 49 national governing bodies. Instead, the USOC and NGBs are affiliated.

— What’s also crystal clear is that sexual abuse is a serious problem in Olympic sport. No one should pretend otherwise. It’s a problem in society at large. It would be the height of naivete to think that sport should be immune. 

— What’s equally, profoundly clear is that it’s going to take real money to address this very serious issue. So who has stepped up? The USOC. Anyone else? 

Common sense, please, about the USOC

Common sense, please, about the USOC

Common-sense test here. If, as a publicity-seeking lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver alleges, the U.S. Olympic Committee had been engaging in “commercial sex trafficking,” and that was even in the slightest bit true, wouldn’t every single one of the USOC’s corporate partners have fled like rats on a sinking ship?

That lawsuit was filed May 4, a Friday.  

I have deliberately waited a full business week — five full days, Monday through Friday — to see whether even one corporate entity, super-sensitive to such matters in this #MeToo era, would take action. The USOC’s sponsors include some known for wholesome family-style branding campaigns; there’s also Nike, itself wrapped up in harassment allegations.

How many have said as much as boo?

None.