What did we learn this week?
Joseph Ebuya is really back. The defending World Cross Country champion started off his cross season with a loss to Teklemariam Medhin, last year's World XC silver medalist. Today in the Cross de la Constitucion, near Madrid, he handily defeated Medhin to avenge that lone loss. It's early yet--the cross Worlds are still four months away--but he's a strong favorite right now.
The "funniest bloggers in track" title has changed hands. Actually, the title was more or less abdicated. First it went to Ben Wietchmarschen and Jeremy Mosher for their "Lest Than Our Best" blog, which was active mostly in 2007 and 2008. After they quite that gig, the "Two Angry Runners" took over, but their last post was in May 2009. The new titleholders are Jason and Kevin, who do the weekly House of Run podcast.
Even if they had competition, though, Jason and Kevin would win. While running in the local park and listening to this week's podcast, twice I laughed out loud so hard I got thrown off stride and stumbled. I got a few odd looks for that...well, a few more than usual, that is.
How to pick a used car. This from Tom and Ray Magliozzi's Car Talk radio show. When checking out a used car, turn on the radio. If the station pre-sets all play loud rock n' roll, the brakes and transmission are probably shot. What does this have to do with track? Nothing, except that track people are mostly broke as a joke and can't afford new cars.
Two important websites have had redesigns. They are hammerthrow.org and usatf.org. The former was the brainchild of the late Hal Connolly, and was mostly created by friend of the blog Martin Bingisser. From Martin's website:
Harold’s vision for the site was to create an online resource for information about the hammer throw. My vision for the site was to create a one-stop resource for everything about the hammer throw.As far as the USATF.org update goes, they really cleaned up the home page and it looks great. Beyond that, I'm not sure how much "better" the website really is. For example, if you click on the VISA Championship Series link it still takes you to the 2010 page. The 2010 series was finished five months ago, but the new series starts in six weeks. There is essentially no information available about the 2011 editions of those meets besides the dates and sites, and you can't even get that for the Boston Indoor Games. We still have the same basic problem: the people in charge don't take track seriously as a professional spectator sport. Until that changes, neither will anyone else.
The redesign divides all the information into three main categories: (1) a new section that shows outsides what the event is; (2) resources to learn to throw; and (3) resources for more advanced throwers.
What it takes to get a major international sporting event. On Friday the sites for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup were announced. In case you missed it, Russia beat out England (among others) for the 2018 Cup, and Qatar beat out the USA (among others) for the 2022 Cup.
Most sportswriters based in the US or UK complained long and loud about the choices, presuming that many FIFA voters were bought off by the vast petrodollars in both winning countries. Given FIFA's history, it would be more surprising if there was no corruption involved in the voting process than if there was.
But there are legitimate reasons for FIFA's voters to have made the choices they did. For detailed descriptions, read columns by Phil Hersch and Alan Abrahamson. First and foremost is that the World Cup has never been to those two regions of the world. Recall that back in '88 when FIFA chose the USA to host the 1994 Cup, it was also considered a surprise. We beat out Brazil. There were problems, too; we had to put down sod on a lot of turf fields, and even Boston was too hot for some European sides (never mind Orlando or Dallas). But soccer is now a legitimate part of our sports landscape, which seemed a virtual impossibility back then. In retrospect, it was a smart decision by FIFA. If anywhere near the same could happen in eastern Europe and the middle east, this week's choices will also look smart. Besides, what is there to lose? Will Brits simply stop watching football because the World Cup is elsewhere? There's a better chance they'll stop drinking. Or the world will stop turning.
We also learned something else this week that is very telling. Daegu's organizing committee plans to spend $190 million on this year's IAAF World Championships, more than double what anyone else has ever spent. This is, of course, government money, and money the government will never recoup. Korean politicians won't pay much if any price for that. Compare this to the US and UK financial systems, which operate on the profit motive and where politician endure intense scrutiny. They simply wouldn't have dumped gigantic wads of cash on the upcoming World Cups. Qatar and Russia have money to burn, are authoritarian in nature (and therefore immune to public opinion), and are willing to overspend. Besides, there will be oil and natural gas in those two countries a decade from now. Would you bet your biggest showcase on the financial conditions of the US and UK in ten years' time?
Following road racing will inevitably lead to disappointment. The Montferlan 15k run was supposed to match up super-marathoners Samuel Wanjiru ('08 Olympic, '10 Chicago champ) and Patrick Makau (2:04:48 PR). As is usual for a second-tier road race, though, one of the two dropped out citing some lame-ass reason. This time it was Wanjiru. And then the whole damn thing was called off because of black ice on the roads. What was supposed to be a really exciting race fizzled out into nothing. And this happens more often than not.
The US Olympic Committee's TV channel ideas are tabled. In 2009 the USOC announced plans to launch its own TV network, which went over like a lead balloon with the IOC. This issue alone may have been enough to torpedo Chicago's Olympic bid. This week USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told the AP that the idea is so far in the distance that "It's not on the back burner. It's not on the radar screen today." But the idea is still alive, at least in theory.