The World Athletics global governing body has announced that it is to replace the concept of ‘indoor’ competitions with ‘short track’ competitions in part to drive growth in the sport.

Indoor athletics events – covering both track and field – have traditionally been set on 200m tracks inside arenas, with outdoor events on 400m tracks. The distinction dates back 150 years, with indoor events developed in places with colder climates.

As a result of the different conditions in the two settings, performances across them have not historically been deemed comparable, with separate lists of indoor and outdoor performances maintained for statistical and records purposes.

However, pointing to the development of ‘hybrid’ competition venues such as city squares, shopping malls, and train stations, World Athletics notes that it has become “increasingly difficult to maintain the separation between outdoor and indoor athletics.”

While traditional indoor championships will continue to exist, the change will allow “more flexibility in the setting of 200m tracks.”

Not only will the switch to the short track terminology allow for performances on outdoor or temporary 200m tracks to be recognized as official results for the purpose of records and rankings – thereby also allowing them to serve as qualifying competitions for major indoor championships – but it will also allow for greater innovation in the development and productization of such events.

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Major 200m championships could be held in temporary city locations, for example, or outdoor short track championships run in locations where there are limited indoor facilities.

The change is said to be unanimously supported by the World Athletics Council and will be formally approved at its August meeting in Budapest.

The subsequent rule changes will be published in the new edition of the governing body’s Competition and Technical Rule Book and will come into effect on November 1.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said: “This change is designed to remove an unintentional barrier to competition innovation, by offering organizers the chance to explore solutions and opportunities which the current rules may discourage.

“Under this new concept, the 200m short track will no longer be confined to the indoor environment, and a world of opportunities will open up for meeting organizers to stage official competition in whatever facilities they have available, either indoors or outdoors, using 200m or 400m tracks.

“This change will allow and actively encourage the possibility for 200m tracks to move to an outdoor environment and will provide a more affordable option to cities, especially where space is in short supply while stimulating the growth of the sport through investment in new infrastructure.”