UK organises new Athletics World Cup and plays down events clash
By Simon Ward
British Athletics is hosting a new ‘Athletics World Cup’ involving multiple national teams, the first edition of which will take place at the London Stadium this July.
The meeting, which was confirmed today, will involve eight teams - Great Britain & Northern Ireland, USA, Poland, China, Germany, France, Jamaica and South Africa - of men and women competing in all track events up to 1,500 metres and all field events over two evenings.
It replaces ‘The Meet’, a planned one-day contest between Great Britain and USA announced in the wake of last year’s World Athletics Championships in London (pictured), and is sanctioned by the IAAF, the sport's world governing body.
Each team will be represented by one man or woman in each event, and there is a total prize fund of $2 million.
British Athletics told Sportcal that the World Cup "evolved around discussions" on The Meet, adding: "We've still got the intention of hosting a country versus country event at some point, but there was a big response internationally from countries wanting to be involved in an event at the stadium a year after the World Championships."
There was some surprise that British Athletics was planning stage the competition on 14 and 15 July, the same weekend as the final of the Fifa World Cup in Russia and the finals of the Wimbledon championships, the UK's grand slam tennis event, as this would seem to undermine its profile.
However, the clash has been played down by the organisers who pointed out that the soccer and tennis showpieces will be over for the day before the athletics gets under way.
British Athletics also has a limited window given that it only has access to the London Stadium, now the home of Premier League soccer club West Ham United, for a month, and the Müller Anniversary Games, an IAAF Diamond League event, takes place on 21 and 22 July.
Richard Bowker, the chair of UK Athletics, said: “The Athletics World Cup London 2018 will be one of the biggest athletics events in 2018 and as such we’re thrilled to be able to launch it at the London Stadium. This is world-class competition where nation will face nation and fans will see an amazing feast of athletics over two days featuring many of the biggest global superstars in the world of sport.
“This will be an incredible event which we are thrilled to be able to launch on the back of a highly-successful World Championships last summer.”
Coe added: “This is one of the exciting innovative events we are seeing in our sport and our thanks go to British Athletics and the Mayor of London for creating it and hosting it. We have 8 lanes, 8 top nations, 8 teams and a host of world class athletes lining up in each event to win the trophy and prize pot. This will be a fast-paced and exhilarating experience for athletes and fans.”
As the IAAF has only sanctioned the event, British Athletics will be responsible for marketing the commercial rights, and claims there is already considerable interest from broadcasters, including the BBC, its established partner, which will be showing Wimbledon and the World Cup.
It said: "We are in the early stages of talks. They [the broadcasters] see it as a great event, and are not worried about the other events happening as they understand that people want to watch events and go to other ones on the same day."
British Athletics has been eager to launch new events to capitalise on the achievements of the 2017 World Championships, which attracted a record total attendance of more than 700,000 to the London Stadium.
In addition, to mark 100 years since women were given the right to vote in the UK, and as part of London mayor Sadiq Khan’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, all the participating countries at the World Cup will select a female athlete as their captain.
Fans can register their interest in tickets by visiting www.athleticsworldcup.org
The original IAAF World Cup ran from 1977 to 2006, for the most part at four-year intervals, and involved teams representing countries and continents competing in the full range of athletics disciplines.
In 2010, it was replaced by the Continental Cup featuring four teams - Europe, Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific - and the 2018 edition of that event is due to take place in Ostrava in the Czech Republic in September.
Event organisers have been experimenting with new formats to help reinvigorate track and field. These include the team-based Nitro Athletics series, spearheaded by now-retired Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, which debuted in Australia last February, and which the IAAF has pledged to invest in and develop worldwide.