World Championships struggle in bid for centre stage
Everywhere you look in Daegu there is a poster, banner or sign promoting these World Championships. The Koreans are certainly giving the event the hard sell.
Despite that, this is not a city wild with anticipation. Low key would hardly do justice to the build up.
South Korea is not a track-and-field hotbed and even after the 1988 Seoul Olympics the sport failed to take root here (unlike Japan).
Baseball and football are far more popular - I can vouch for that having spent four weeks here during the 2002 World Cup - and it tells you everything that the local organising committee turned down offers from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to send their leading ambassadors to the country to promote the event. Even Carl Lewis was told not to bother. The reason? No one would have known who he is.
But the indifference to these championships reflects a deeper problem the sport is battling around the world.
And with a year to go to the London Olympics, it is a problem the sport desperately needs to address.
There is little obvious local interest in the World Championships. Photo: AP
Some of this is down to the series of doping scandals which have tarnished the sport's reputation in recent years. But huge crowds still flock to see the Tour de France despite all the drug controversies and cycling seems to be getting more, not less popular.
Without Usain Bolt, the sport would be in desperate trouble and his importance to track and field cannot be overstated.
The fact the 100m has been robbed of the showdown the world wanted to see between Bolt and his Jamaican team mate Asafa Powell has certainly not helped these Championships.
Considering the immense pressure he is under, Bolt seemed completely unfazed by it all when I interviewed him yesterday. He said he understood his responsibility to the sport and just enjoyed racing.
He says he wants to be a legend and that means retaining his World 100m and 200m titles here and then his Olympic titles over the same distances in London next year.
But what would the sport do if he were to then retire? Two sprinters who have run faster than Bolt this year - American Mike Rogers and Steve Mullings of Jamaica - have both failed drugs tests, and Powell seems incapable of delivering when it really counts. The truth is there is no one else quite like Bolt - not only in terms of talent but his remarkable character and charisma.
Britain's athletes can't waste time worrying about the international profile of their sport. They are now in the critical countdown to London 2012.
Just three years ago in Beijing, the prospects for the British team looked extremely bleak after the track and field team won just four medals, even if one of those was Christine Ohuruogu's gold in the 400m.
Organisers knew that even if the host nation won stacks of medals in sports like cycling, rowing and sailing, failure in the marquee sport of athletics would overshadow the Games.
In came Charles Van Commenee in 2009 and even before he had started to shake things up, the team's fortunes seemed to turn the corner with the team winning six medals in the World Championships in Berlin.
The target here is seven and it is clear that this is not only a crucial stepping stone for next summer but the first real chance to assess the tough talking Dutchman.
A successful Olympics on the track for Britain may help reignite an enthusiasm for a sport which used to enjoy a much bigger status.
The UK is a key market for the sport and with London bidding for the 2017 World Championships, Britain also has a vital role to play in helping to restore lustre to track and field's global standing too.