The competition was enjoyed by casual followers but way and battleground still feels like its fumbling in the dark since losing stellar attraction
Just under a year ago in London Usain Bolt grabbed the communicate wand for the final time in his profession, swapped it from his left hand to right and then pressed down hard-boiled on the afterburners. First he rose. Then he hopped before, as the anguish from a torn hamstring hitting, plunging to his knees.
It could have been a metaphor for the next 11 months of the athletic: the excite of the 2017 nature championships, with its stadiums packed and 10 million watch Bolt’s and Mo Farah’s farewell, replaced by a slowing down and detachment from casual observers.
Right now athletics feels like a sport fumbling uncertainly in the dark, trying to find a way to stimulate the public care in the post-Bolt world-wide. The Jamaican was not only its biggest weapon but its greatest crutch.
And so to Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium, for the inaugural Athletics World Cup- a new and much-hyped eight-nation phenomenon. Formerly again as the first day sucked to a close the British, American and Jamaican teams were squaring off in the 4x100m. Merely this time the epithets were very different.
None of the British crew who mounted their own nationals register of 37.47 to take golden at last year’s world championships was there. Nor was any of the Americans who finished second or, indeed, the Jamaicans. In happening nothing of Britain’s 10 fastest 100 m runners was emulating- with the team preceded out by Reuben Arthur, who has the 23 rd-fastest time in the UK in 2018.
Does this matter? You might think so. After all the British Sportings chief executive, Niels de Vos, had promised that the overall character “wouldve been” “astonishing”. But many of Britain’s idols, including Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir and Reece Prescod, were missing- together with many other pavilion refers including Caster Semenya and American sprinter Noah Lyles, fastest serviceman in countries around the world this year.
Imagine having a World Cup with no Ronaldo, Neymar and Messi, and with Jermain Defoe up front for England. It wouldn’t fly, would it?
And yet British Sportings would insist- with some justification- that replenishing more than half of the London Stadium on a Saturday when England’s footballers and cricketers were in action, as well as the Wimbledon women’s singles final, was a decent first stab. Sunday had fewer followers, but they are continuing experienced checking the US team run away with the accolade and the vision of a makeshift British unit battling to third.
Perhaps there is something to the idea of team competition. After all, racing’s Shergar Cup does not attract the best ponies hitherto its team-based contest attracts big crowds to Ascot. Certainly those in the stadium seem to enjoy specific actions. A sidekick of mine who had wasted PS70 on his ticket seemed happy enough for a one-off- even though he acknowledged the sportings was ” far away from world-class “.
That seemed to sum up the general climate. Reasonably witty, interesting format, character and Tv coverage leaving a lot to be desired.
But the final judgment needs to wait: until UK Athletics’ balance sheet has been properly assessed and scrutinised, until after the effect on the crowd for this week’s Anniversary Games is known, and- in the longer term- on whether it creates new followers to the athletic. Eventually it also needs to create a sincere bequest. There is talk of China being interested in hosting in 2020. But how many adepts will be tempted to turn up in an Olympic year?
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