© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated

Apparently the prestigious Diamond League (DL) series needs to trim down its program from offering 16 different track and field events to 12.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) the world-wide governing body of the sport of athletics and owner of the DL will be meeting on Nov. 22 to discuss.

The purpose of trimming the meets is to make them more broadcast-friendly by limiting them to 90-minutes.

Cricket has had good success taking their multi-hour to multi-day games and paring them down to 20 minutes in what they call 20/20. Rugby has had tremendous success with the Rugby 7s. Seven-minute halves, seven players – it’s wildly exciting. The National Hockey League trimmed down their games from three hours by approximately 15 minutes. They have work to do, but the hurry-up faceoff and automatic penalties for firing the puck over the glass are two attempts to speed things up. The faceoff still needs attention.

Athletics is next.

Discus is rumoured to be on the block.

Many sports and events are civilized – don’t cringe – versions of war-practice, American gridiron football is like an animated 3D virtual reality version of chess. Soccer, basketball, handball, hockey, and rugby are examples of tamed war.

Discus is an ancient sport to demonstrate the power of the soldiers who could whip a flat disc-like weapon long distances with accuracy and power. Todays throwers, like hammer throwers, shot putters, javelin throwers, as well as pole vaulters, could knock out and impale enemies with incredible power and accuracy. Pole vaulters would enter castles and forts, ready for battle – they are ripped and fit enough.

But as a demonstration of the tamed war-like events and as a competition between athletes, the audience is niche. They don’t directly battle each other but try to achieve distances and heights. For the uninitiated, it is neutered war. To those who understand the events and totally get it, it is just as exciting as any other sport. Trimming them from the DL will do nothing to expose the events to the uninitiated.

But something has to go; to be the martyr to save track and field in the big-time Diamond League.

The easiest choice is to pare the events that have the smallest viewing audience.

The problem is, without consistent high-level competition (not just every four years), a sport dies.

An organization called Global Throwers is appealing to the IAAF to reconsider the removal of discus on the basis that athletics appeals to a broad range of people of all shapes and sizes.

In a submitted document, the author appeals, “While the 200m athletes will still have an alternative in the 100m, and the endurance athletes will always be well taken care of with 3,000m or additional programmed events where possible, the real losers here are the discus throwers and the triple jumpers for which there are no alternatives.”

Global Throwers made some suggestions such has javelin and discus being part of the Diamond League in alternate years. This is not a great alternative, as a one-year break from the highest level of competition is a long time.

Limited field sizes with a maximum of eight competitors so there is no need for reduction of field after three attempts. This isn’t optimal, as up-and-coming athletes need an opportunity to compete with the best.

Computer-led scoring, which removes some of the judging time – a good idea.

Four attempts rather than the normal six. This works, as it will require athletes to be at their best and in-the-moment for all four throws.

Warm-up outside the arena, perhaps on a portable facility, leaving the infield free for more events. Why this was not thought of before is a headscratcher.

One item not suggested in Global Thrower’s document is the idea of starting competition before the meet broadcast commences. Not unlike the idea of practice throws and warm-ups happening elsewhere, athletes should get two of their four or three of their six throws off before the meet starts and have their event commence directly after opening of the meet. The public address announcer can easily catch up the spectators with where the athletes are in the competition.