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Monday, April 12, 2010

Questioning the Olympic Marathon Trials Bidding

Joe Battaglia has a long and involved story at Universal Sports about the selection process for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. It's interesting to read at face value, and reading between the lines is even more interesting.

Quick recap if you're short on the story: the 2008 OT races were held in conjunction with the New York and Boston marathons, held the prior day on separate courses. It was a big success and it was widely expected that 2012 would be similar. Houston beat them out with a bid to host both of the OT races along with their own marathon in January.

When I first heard about it, I wondered if there was any USATF funny-business going on. But I didn't have to read much to find out that Houston won because they had the best bid. They offered to cover all the costs, pay out more prize money than was required, and didn't expect any cut in advertising money from USATF. Add in the time-of-year advantage and you're looking at almost a perfect bid from USATF's standpoint, aside from being outside the major media markets of the northeast. Even that might not be a downside, as NY and Boston already give serious marathon racing outsized attention, while Houston could be seen as a place to take it from near-zero to something.

What's really interesting is that the story was written at all. Ever since the OT site was announced, the NYRRC's Mary Wittenberg has been bitching about it. Not aggressively, since there appears to be little to bitch about, but she's made her disapproval well known. Note that the BAA has said essentially nothing in the press, and they were in basically the same situation as the NYRRC. They aren't as aggressively self-promoting as the NYRRC and/or Wittenberg.

Battaglia doesn't have an axe to grind. He just needed something to write, and he tried to make it look like there were two sides to the story. But there aren't, Battaglia knows it, and doesn't pretend otherwise. New York got beat fair and square.

LATE EDIT: Thanks to pjm for his insight in the comments. There's a thread on this at Let's Run, and I'll just say very few people are jumping to Wittenberg's defense. To be fair, they're not exactly praising Logan either/

1 comment:

pjm said...

Boston isn't saying anything publicly because (a) they're really busy right now, and (b) as Battaglia mentions, they dropped out at an earlier stage in the process. In researching a 2009 article both Dave McGillivray and Guy Morse basically said their only beef with the Trials was that they paid the entire bill (which is huge) but were hamstrung in raising sponsorships. The B.A.A. doesn't have the same resources as the NYRR, and it sounds like when USATF turned down the proposals that involved revenue sharing, the B.A.A. folded and the NYRR didn't.