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  • Tuesday Talk -- IAAF Confident, Not Complacent Ahead of Daegu 2011


    IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss (Getty Images)
    (ATR) Based upon the previous 12 editions of the IAAF World Championships, the bar by which the international governing body measures success has been set very high, general secretary Pierre Weiss tells Around the Rings.

    "We must not forget that the IAAF World Championships are the third largest sporting event on the planet after the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup,” he says.

    Roughly 2,500 athletes from more than 200 countries are coming to Daegu along with 10,500 officials and volunteers. Organizers hope as many as half a million spectators will stop by as well.

    "It's an enormous organizational task for any city to manage, but the IAAF is confident that Daegu will live up to the impressive history of these championships,” Weiss says.

    “We very much look forward to nine exciting days of competition in Korea."

    In the meantime, Weiss, who is retiring this year after five years as general secretary, discusses with ATR some of the issues facing his sport.

    ATR: What’s new for Daegu?

    PW: In line with recent developments to the IAAF competition program, Daegu will mark a first in the history of the competition. A brand new and modern approach has led to a revamped and revolutionized competition timetable designed to reach optimum impact for both the fans and media on the one hand but also in order to support athletes on the other.

    The philosophy behind the new competition timetable in Daegu was three-fold:

    - To have evening sessions of not more than three hours
    - To have a balanced number of finals across all days
    - To schedule qualification rounds in the morning sessions only

    Around the Rings: How healthy is the state of track and field one year out from the London Olympics?

    LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe recently showed IAAF president Lamine Diack around Olympic Stadium. The track should be completed any day now. (Getty Images)
    PW: If we remember two years ago the tremendous IAAF World Championships we celebrated in Berlin, championships which followed directly from the outstanding success for our sport at the Beijing Olympic Games, we can confidently diagnose our sport as being fit and ready for London 2012.

    Athletics wears the mantle of the Olympics' number one sport with great pride, yet neither are we complacent. We are adapting our competition programs to reflect the increasing diversity of the sport and entertainment world from which the public can now choose. Attracting and, most importantly, retaining the young as both participant and spectator are essential if athletics and the whole Olympic Movement are to retain their appeal.

    ATR: In 2009, marketing director Luis Carulla said the IAAF sold seven of eight possible packages for the Berlin World Championships. How many did you sell for Daegu, and what does that mean for the sport?

    PW: With agreement reached with the Korean international steel giant Posco on May 16, the IAAF achieved its eighth international sponsorship package for Daegu. In any context, exceeding the commercial heights of what we achieved two years ago for the championships in Berlin, a capital city in one of the traditional heartlands of our sport, is exceptionally good news for our sport. As a gauge, it shows that even when we venture into comparatively virgin territory for our sport, the core strength and appeal of athletics means commercially we are regarded as a strong and an attractive partner.

    ATR: The transition from the Golden League to the Diamond League was supposed to provide a big boost for athletics. How do you gauge its success so far?

    PW: We set out to reinvent the one-day meeting structure of our sport, to bring clarity to the elite international athletics competition which takes place outside the IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games. Therefore, we were delighted that within a few weeks of the inaugural season opening in 2010, the attraction of our concept was enthusiastically supported by Samsung, who joined us as a committed title sponsor for the series.

    In terms of international TV ratings, the 14 meetings of the Samsung Diamond League have seen world audience totals nearly triple in 2010 when compared with 2009, with the hours of coverage dramatically increasing, too, to fully justify our expansion of the top one-day circuit outside Europe for the first time.

    Organizers of the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin set the bar high for Daegu 2011, then handed the flag over to its South Korean leaders. (Getty Images)
    ATR: How is the fight against doping going?

    PW: Working with the World Anti-Doping Agency and in partnership with the Swedish-based company International Doping Tests & Management, the IAAF with its own specialist department of 10 staff members is maintaining its long-term and persistent fight against doping.

    The statistics of the IAAF 2010 Anti-Doping Program (1,325 in-competition tests and more than 1,800 out-of-competition) speak for themselves.

    When you also take into account the thousands of other tests carried out at the national level, the sport of athletics implements one of the most widely based out-of-competition doping control programs of any international sport.

    ATR: What do you think of the false start rule – one false start and you're out?

    PW: It was a difficult decision to take and the vote of our Congress was far from unanimous. That being said, we have now almost two seasons of experience behind us, and we can say that it was a wise decision: athletes accommodated this new situation, and results are continuing to improve.

    Interview conducted by Karen Rosen.

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