Iaaf 10-year Plan


IAAF Athletics’ World Plan
Thursday 23 December 2004
At the 2003 Paris Congress, President Lamine Diack challenged the IAAF Family to join him in a 10-year Athletics’ World Plan, to regenerate the sport and assure its future.

The end of 2004 is a good time to review the progress of this ambitious project. More than 50 athletics experts have volunteered their time and wisdom to join the 8 working groups, or teams, each charged to question current practice and to think freely about new directions.

Events Team– to improve the quality and appeal of Athletics Events
Participation Team– to provide all people with the greatest opportunities to participate in athletics
School/Youth Team– to make athletics the number one participatory sport in schools
Competence Team– to increase the level of competence in the sport of athletics
Facilities Team– to improve access to athletics facilities and equipment for all
Recognition Team– to increase the recognition of the sport of athletics

No-one wants to throw away over 90 years of beloved tradition, and nor will they, but neither can the IAAF survive in the Media frenzy of World Sport unless it offers new and exciting prospects for athletes and the public alike. Every area of the sport must be reviewed, put to the test, and encouraged to move forward.

The World Plan Steering Board is a 12 person group, chaired by the IAAF President Lamine Diack, which meets every couple of months to assess progress. After a year of hard thinking and argument, several new initiatives are emerging.

And where better to start than with the rock on which the sport depends, the World Athletics Championships. The Events team, which is led by IAAF Vice President Dapeng Lou, has rightly made this their priority. The sport cannot afford to let the World Championships fall from its prestigious ranking alongside the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup. It is clear that it has to listen attentively to any advice or criticism, whether from Broadcast and Sponsor partners, the general public, or the Member Federations.

For example, there is no doubt that all parties wish to keep the 9-day schedule.

However, current global TV scheduling for major events, like the Champions League, occupies between 2hr30 and 3hrs in prime time. On occasions, the World Championships has run for more than 5 hours. This no longer works in a crowded TV programme environment.

So where and how to cut? This is the challenge to the events team who have drawn up a comprehensive list of proposals for further study by the IAAF Competition Commission and the IAAF Technical Committee.

Among the proposals are:

Only finals in the evenings (with 100m semi-finals );
Action every weekday morning - helping TV and further world exposure;
A no false start rule – ie any false start would mean instant dismissal;
Possibility to reduce the number of attempts in Field events and always to compete in reverse order of standing (leader last, especially in the final round );
All athletes to wear national colours front and back;
Reduce multiple languages for public announcements: 80% in host languages and use of English/French translations on large display screens. Important to offer rentable head-sets with multi-language selectable commentary in the Stadium;
Appoint an IAAF Presentation manager for each stadium.

This brings us to the most difficult problem, how to manage the Awards Ceremonies. They can take up nearly 7 minutes of time per award and there are usually at least 5 per session, 6 or 7 on the final days. Some TV producers would see this as a waste of more than 35 minutes. However, a questionnaire of Member federations showed a reluctance to change tradition. Could the answer be to hold the ceremonies in a special area outside the track but in the stadium? Or allow field events to continue during the ceremony? Or ask the Host Broadcaster to cover for stadium screens and for those Broadcasters who wish to take the pictures? The guiding principle is always to respect our heritage but also provide dynamic entertainment, because we are now part of show-business as well as sport.

The general conclusion is that the World Championships will benefit from a variety of new ideas and investment to allow it to continue to reach the highest level of entertainment, continually improving as new technologies for measurement, timing and presentation are introduced.

It is at the one-day athletics meetings where organisers should encourage experimentation, and introduce more excitement. Imaginative plans could include having just 4 rounds in Field events; smaller-entry higher-quality middle-distance races with no pace-makers … the list of possibilities is endless for imaginative organisers and athletes.

Elsewhere, there is also much important activity. The most ambitious plan is led by Vice-President Amadeo Francis and the “School/Youth” team, which aims to introduce athletics as the one vital sport world-wide for all schoolchildren, promoting health and self-confidence. This will need the active help of all Member Federations, reaching Ministerial level both at Health and Sport. It is a huge challenge, but possibly the most important project for the future of the sport.

IAAF Council Member and EAA President Hansjörg Wirz is looking closely at the implications of “Footballisation” throughout the world. Athletics is facing an extremely dangerous threat when owners of local and national sports stadiums remove running tracks to allow spectators to get closer to the football pitch and/or install artificial turf instead of grass, and worse, when new stadiums are built for football use only as is the case increasingly world-wide.

Revenue and recognition are the two related challenges for the team lead by IAAF Vice President Helmut Digel. They are looking at ways to involve both current and recent great champions to act as Ambassadors for the sport around the world. The fight against doping has been hard on the IAAF, and everyone needs to support all activities which promote positive values. They are also working closely with IAAF partners Dentsu and AMS to maximise revenue and recognition across multiple platforms such as web-casting, media, video games, hospitality, licensing and merchandising.

Finally the Media Group, lead by Adrian Metcalfe has welcomed the publication of the new TV guidelines produced by the TV Commission. Chairman Alex Gilady is keen that all partner Broadcasters and all MFs receive and utilise this highly professional document.

Much work has also been done by the IAAF, together with partners Dentsu/AMS, Seiko, Epson and Delta Tre to re-think and standardise our on-screen data and graphics. The intention is that all TV platforms for the sport from the World Championships to Golden League, all Grands Prix, Area and even National events should carry the same look, text, icons and lay-out whatever and wherever the event. Familiarity and consistency will greatly benefit the TV viewer, reinforce the IAAF Brand and promote its sponsors.

The Media team is also in close collaboration with major International media companies, like the News Agency AP/API to help promote our stars world-wide through print and TV and increase their media profiles.

So in conclusion, the news at the end of 2004 is that the IAAF is alive and very well, actively pursuing exciting new plans, only some of which it has been possible to outline in this newsletter, while continuing its regular business. No organisation can stand still, and the very personal hands-on involvement of President Diack in all aspects of the Athletics’ World Plan will ensure that the IAAF will grow in strength in the challenging years to come.