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Thumbs-up for Diamond League as it heads to UK

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Katharine Merry | 11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

This weekend, Gateshead has the honour of holding the first meeting of the new Diamond League series to take place in the UK.

With 14 meetings over the summer months in three continents, the Diamond League replaced the Golden League this season, with the aim of bringing the best of the best together to wow fans.

At the concept launch last November in Monaco, IAAF President Lamine Diack promised "world-class sport and entertainment" with a determination too see greater frequency of competition between the big names.

So has the new Diamond League lived up to its grand billing so far?

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Veronica Campbell-Brown wins the 100m in Eugene


Will the Aviva British Grand Prix in Gateshead be any different from previous years, before it was part of a series, or is it the same meeting with a new name?

After enjoying it so much last year, I worked again last weekend at the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, the sixth stop on the Diamond League tour.

Considering how inconvenient it is to get to Eugene on the north-west coast of the United States, it is testament to the meeting that is always attracts big names and - for the 15th year in row - a sell-out crowd of 12,000, but this year was deemed the best ever.

Chatting to the athletes over the weekend I had to ask them whether the Diamond League was any different. The general vibe was positive and that yes, it was different this year.

For a start, there are more head-to-head match-ups, something that all the athletes I spoke to were relishing. It isn't just about accumulating those Diamond League points to win the cash prizes and Diamond Trophy at the end of the season.

It is about the psychological advantages, the stamping of authority over your main rivals more often, as well as giving fans the races they all want to see more often.

There are 32 events in which you can score points, with each taking place at seven of the 14 meetings. The only event that has all 32 is the only two-day meeting, at London's Crystal Palace on 13 and 14 August.

Clearly the word "diamond" in the title is making a difference to some athletes. The Prefontaine meeting director's face was a picture when he heard that one of the African athletes had flown into Portland and got a taxi to Eugene - a 110-mile trip taking two hours!

I feel this 14-meet concept is working well this year as there are no global championships for many, so athletes who want to get performances on the board and cash in their pockets will have to take part.

It will be interesting to see if the starting line-ups are so loaded next year as the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea approach.

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Walter Dix beats Tyson Gay in the 200m in Eugene


Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser was generally very excited about meeting her main rivals regularly in the sprints, but world champion Christian Cantwell reminded me that - unlike the sprinters - shot-putters never avoided each other in the past, so it wasn't much different for them!

There was just a special vibe around Eugene, as I feel there will be in Gateshead, about being a Diamond League meeting. It's like a stamp of approval for meetings now, making them one of the chosen few.

But is it any different for the fans? For those who have watched the series so far on the BBC has there be a difference to you as a viewer?

Of course there are things the IAAF would like to make better and iron out. There were questions last weekend as to why the New York and Eugene meets were three weeks apart, making it difficult for athletes from around the world to stay on and do both in one trip.

Also, does the Diamond League threaten the future of other athletics meetings? Is there a fear that these may suffer if the big names are just doing the larger events?

Usain Bolt ran a 300m in Ostrava this season; will he and other big names continue to take part in anything other than the Diamond League meets? These other meetings are vital and need support.

Some meetings are no doubt better for the athletes, media and spectators than others. But overall it seems, six meetings into the first Diamond League season, it's a thumbs-up from the athletes.

That is why, for me, when Gateshead flies the flag on Saturday to herald the arrival of the Diamond League in the UK, it will be a bit more special. And remember we are the only country that has two of them.

Watch the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday on the BBC Red Button and online (UK only), then Saturday's Aviva British Grand Prix from Gateshead from 1630-1930 BST on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website (UK users only) and BBC Radio 5 live.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    We're the only county that has two of them? I believe NYC and Eugene are both in the USA! But yes, we're the only *other* country that has two of them...

  • Comment number 2.

    The lack of regular tv coverage is very poor. Hidden away on red button which can't be recorded or is always forgotten about. 2012 on the way and it's getting harder to see the athletics!

  • Comment number 3.

    Switzerland also has two, one in Lausanne and the other in Zurich.

  • Comment number 4.

    Not sure I agree #2 ChrisABZ, as I didn't have Setanta and don't have Eurosport I have never seen so much athletics on BBC TV in my lifetime. I am enjoying every second of it too and never thought the BBC would get these major Grand Prixs meets back again. I do agree, though, it would be good to have them available on the i-player which (I think) isn't the case at present.

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes it is bad for other meets not on the diamond league.

    It's good for the UK venues to have the marketing umbrella, but for those already on the golden league it seems to have dragged them down and made them less special. I for one, far preferred the golden league set-up.

  • Comment number 6.

    I wonder why the BBC buys the rights to live sport and then doesn't show it on one of our channels, surely if this was live on BBC3 or even better, the HD channel, then it would get enough viewers to warrant its purchase?

  • Comment number 7.

    Tyson Here is jus trying to Make Powell feel and look superior to Usain y?...because he knows he can't beat Bolt....nice try tyson jus make powell ur greatest challenge for now cuz u can't even soil Usain bolt ...to the world wi Jamaican pearl....

  • Comment number 8.

    Tyson Gay is just perpetuating the myth that sportspeople aren't that smart. To say he fears Powell more than Bolt is just crazy talk that no right minded person would believe.

  • Comment number 9.

    I have just finished watching the English Schools on another channel, and i am really disappointed that the BBC seems only interested in international stars, and not the stars of the future. This is a really important competition and we see so many stars of the future here, and there is not even a mention of it. I am also really disappointed in our stars of the past that seem to be more interested in their commentating careers than supporting our youngsters to come through - Dame Kelly (was there this years as she was last year) and she does a phenomenal effort in trying to harness and bring through the next talent - but it is only for the middle distance athletes it is very disheartening to not see icons in other disciplines not stepping up to the same level and mentoring the young people. We moan and complain about the lack of talent coming through and we should have batches instead of individuals - if you look at the schools competitions they are there - they need support and mentorship because so many don't make through.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi all.

    I am blaming the jeg lag from Eugene! What I meant to say at the end of the blog is that the UK are the only country to have a 2 day competition. The London Grand Prix. Apologises I must have been a little travel wary when writing!

    Onyx69
    As you may or may not know mentoring is a passion of mine and I agree that we have so much knowledge from previous stars that it is a shame when it is not passed on. I do alot of mentoring and find it very rewarding. Hence I started up a free mentoring website 2 years ago with Darren Campbell and Linford Christie, elitementor.com. Solely for the purpose of helping as many people as we can we our experience.

  • Comment number 11.

    So it appears that Fraser has been banned for taking a pain killer for dental problems.

    I accept that athletes have some responsibility for what's in their bodies, and I found Ben Johnson's interview last Thursday night on BBC Radio 5 to be disappointing, I do have some concerns about the IAAF's approach.

    For example, athletes are handed drinks when they cross the finish line, or in a marathon/10,000m race, while running. What would the IAAF do if a drink station's supplies were deliberately spiked? Would they ban all of the athletes in that race? There has to be some latitude, surely?

  • Comment number 12.

    So it appears that Fraser has been banned for taking a pain killer for dental problems.

    I accept that athletes have some responsibility for what's in their bodies, and I found Ben Johnson's interview last Thursday night on BBC Radio 5 to be disappointing, and I agreed totally with Katharine's comments. However, I do have some concerns about the IAAF's approach.

    For example, athletes are handed drinks when they cross the finish line, or in a marathon/10,000m race, while running. What would the IAAF do if a drink station's supplies were deliberately spiked? Would they ban all of the athletes in that race? There has to be some latitude, surely?

  • Comment number 13.

    Caster Seyemna - Surely the IAAF have a responsibility to all female athletes to at least indicate how they have 'patched things up' to enable Seyemna to legally compete as a female. Why are they keeping all the details secret? What have they got to hide? No-one can hide the facts that this person improved their 800m time, (at the Berlin World C'Ships) over a short period of time, by a margin which is virtually impossible to accept could happen.
    Your thoughts please Katharine.

  • Comment number 14.

    I agree with Onyx69's point about TV's failure to show the National Schools championships. Something as simple as that would help to increase and maintain interest at the most important stage. Regional championships should also be shown on regional TV. These intermediate stages in performance are more likely to motivate young people to get involved than seeing only the very best - whose performances to most budding athletes often seem to be out of reach. . . Raising the profile of school level athletics would probably also help to motivate local authorities to do something about provision of track and field facilities. . . . Here in Renfrew town there are quite a few secondary schools and none of them have access to a nearby track, throws or jumps area. Schools is where the focus should be if we are to give the talented young greater opportunities to develop their potential.

    .."stamping of authority over your main rivals . .". Well KM, that's an interesting insight. I think most athletes want to win, but I wonder how many want to be able to do it because they've intimidated their rivals, and not because they were the better athlete on the day. I still compete from time to time, and the best victories by far are the ones where the opposition are at the top of their game. I think that was a very unfortunate choice of phrase and hope it's not one that reflects the way things are at the top the heap - if it is then a culture change is needed. It just takes a few elite athletes to express the view that winning satisfies more when rivals also excel, to create a fairer more competitive culture. I remember John McEnroe making just that kind of point more than 20 years.


  • Comment number 15.

    Hi all.

    James Autar:
    Your point is not Diamond league related, but thanks for the input! On Semenya.
    We covered this alot in the Track and Field show last week including talking to her lawyer.
    He confirmed a settlement has been made with the IAAF and the details of her testing would not be released.
    Many will find this frustrating and all agree that the whole situation has been handled badly.
    When I was younger I was subject to a sex test at my 1st European Junior Championships aged 14 years old. I did not have a problem with this. This may not be the same for all female athletes, but there are ways and means of raising questions and getting tests done if they are requested or desired, whether it be for rapid performance increase or they way someone looks.
    Everything was handled badly in Semenya's case and you only hope it will be better handled next time, because at some point there will be a next time.

    Jim Hogg:
    I think we all agree, the more athletics on the TV the better. To raise the profile and interest, especially for youngsters.
    In terms of my 'stamping your authority over your main rivals' this is meant from the psychological point of view as I said. If you can race your main rivals week in week out and get into a groove of winning/delivering your best performance then that will help an athletes confidence.
    Do you think David Oliver has any doubt after his 110m hurdles victories recently in Eugene and Paris, about being the best in the World at present?
    David's confidence is sky high after now regularly winning races and running fast. The Diamond League has given him this opportunity and he has taken it, to currently be the best in the World.
    With the World record to come soon?

 

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