December 2009
CHICAGO’S OLYMPIC LOSS may have stung America’s pride, but for me the saddest thing to come out of the IOC’s awarding of the 2016 Games to Rio was the severe crimp that decision will put in any U.S. plans to host the World Champs any time soon. At last year’s USATF conclave, new CEO Doug Logan pledged that the U.S. would both bid on and host the ’15 Worlds.

While he didn’t say so, conventional wisdom was that Logan was counting on The Windy City building a new facility that would be capable of staging the Worlds—the nation currently doesn’t really have such a structure, as hard to believe as that may sound. But, no Games, no new facility.

So now what? Logan remains upbeat in the wake of the Olympic decision, although he admits the result will probably have significant financial ramifications. In a post-Copenhagen interview with Universal Sports, he said, “I’ve quantified it, and I quantified it in advance, what Chicago meant to us in incremental revenue over the course of the next seven years. For me, it was about $10 million. Is it going to make my runners run any slower? No. Is it going to make my vaulters jump any lower? No. Is it going to impact our development programs? Well, $10 million ain’t cheese. It would have been meaningful. Can I pick that up in other ways and in other places? The answer is yes.”

He went on to say that while Chicago was indeed on his list of potential WC sites, he had four in mind and that the other three remained in play. Whatever venues he has in mind, none of them will be a simple plug-and-play option.

We’ve played this game before in this column, but think of the elemental requirements for hosting the Worlds:

•It has to be in a city that has an international airport.

•You’ve got to have a stadium that’ll hold at least 30,000 spectators (plus press, TV & VIPs) with a functional warmup facility in proximity, and a lot of office-type space.

•The field can’t be crowned (as all football fields are), has to allow for the staging of all the long throws, and is likely to be unavailable to anyone else for much of the month of August (when pre-season football is up and running).

But that’s only part of the problem. Let’s assume that some modern-day King Midas magically provided such a stadium. The U.S. bid would still face serious obstacles, not the least of which is the IAAF’s insistence that the hosts bear the cost of a worldwide TV signal. The World Championships of late have had trouble finding a U.S. network willing even to carry it; none of them are likely to make a promise of support 4-5 years out.

Then there’s the matter of visa problems caused by tough U.S. border controls, an angle that was cited more than once in Copenhagen as a factor in Chicago’s loss.

And we can’t ignore that the IAAF expects all the WC prize money to come tax-free. Other nations have been willing to grant waivers in this department. The U.S. has given no such indication. Mr. Logan has a tough row to hoe, but for my next few Christmas gifts I’d be quite satisfied to have his optimism pan out.