The fact that African domination in distance running is bigger and bigger - that´s runnimh distance improvement but that´s also part of the european decline.
In my opinion you are over estimate the negative impact of modern civilisation – that of TV play games, fast food, laziness, etc, among European young people.
I think that your socio-cultural or genetic arguments are just an half of the problem.
We say that in the last decades ther´s a decline of the running distance wins in big competitions from the non-Africans. Ther´s also a decline in the average amount of runners that in each country or all over the world out of Africa produce good rankings.
Despite that some European records they did improve since the 80s- by Europeans that are born in Europe (not false Europeans). Even in 3000m steeple, 5000m and 10000m as well as the marathon you we did European records in the 90´s and in 20s. Also the fact that I need to remember to Renato and you all that most of the best performances that are produces in recent years that are done in outdoors. There are more and more European runners that have no special interest to run track runs, but they want to be good in road and cross runs. Thus their best performances and peak events have no measure as in track rankings.
Thus you can argue ther´s a run decline from the European runners – and all the rest out of Africa – lees people interest in running distance, the annual rankings they did decline.
But that means lack talent or quality for “distance and endurance events” ? No
Is that due to the fact of a poor genetics or modern life style ? No
And the negative impact the modern social/cultural societies - as in the European countries – is so big that people have no more interest for a sport that demand a “culture of effort”? No
That´s a fact there a less people have interest for distance running out of Africa or did interesting performances.
However sports like cycling, rowing, skiing or duathlon or triathlon or Iroman thriathlon – they grow in participants and competition interest and the performances are improving in every season among European countries as well as countries out of Africa and they are really “endurance sports” some of them with more endurance exigency than running distance.
Why recently the same European young people have more and more interest in cycling or rowing or triathlon as they haven´t in distance running no more?
That´s just look to the Tour de France or Giro di Italy or World Cycling Champs. That´s not the fact that Africans they wouldn´t win in the day the have the interest and the facilities and the money to buy a competition bike. That´s the fact that the Europeans and all out of Africa, despite the “modern” civilization habits since young kids they are still improving in that other sports rather than distance running.
The fact is that the Europeans and Americans they have more and more interest for that sports out of distance running.
In that sports the PBs and national records and the rankings that are still improving in that events. An Armstrong runs a Tour de France stage faster than ever in the past. And most of the participants they run faster every stage than in the past, and that´s not simply by the skill reason, that because they are able to train more and they have the talent to run faster.
But why not the distance running?
In my opinion, in lots of situations young people give up to try a sport or changes of sport because actual African dominance in running distance events.
Ask any young European or american kid among these man of sports who are the ones that they know: If that´s Armstrong or Bekele, if that´s Pantani or Cherono, if that´s Baldini or Abere Adere ? Ask a young girl out of Africa continent if that´s Paula Radcliff or Chepchumba ?
In my opinion, what´s the image that you create or the motivation that you send if you are an European young kid and see the last 10000m Athens Olympics and you see that first that be born out of Africa he is quite overlap by all the rest, if you take out those from America and Europe that did born in Africa?
You sit down to see the Olympics in your TV or WCCC. What you see – a bunch of Africans leading the run all the time. This motivates a lot an African but desn´t motivate an European.
What´s the motivation to go through running distance sport for a young Portuguese talent if he goes to a local run and there are some Kenyans that take all leading places ?
If Lopes or Mamede did born in 1995 they will never done what they did, because they will have give up, because they imagine that´s impossible to win local runs, that´s how they start in their careers debut. I´m want to clean up any doubt. I think that African have the right to compete where they have an open entry. But i´m simply try to use facts to base my considerations.
In that aspect Renato is right - that´s a socio-cultural reason – out of Africa people don´t have as references no more from Bekele or Cherono or Kepketer as they used to have from Lasse Viren, an Emil Zatopec or a Sebastian Coe.
And you see, all deals with “strong influence by images”. I think that if in long term no one change the process in the countries out of Africa - one day in the future we will see an European Champs that is wined in all distance events by “import” African runners, that they did changed from citizenship to be allowed to compete.
The society and market rules that goes like this. If you want the best shoes you go to Italy, if you want the best perfume that is French of course. If you want task-line of production you use asian countries or immigration to work – that´s less expensive. If you want Porto wine that´s in Portugal , you don´t look for code fish in Africa. If you want the best coffee you don´t look that in Scandinavia. If you want the best sashimi that´s in Japan. I see young Americans, Africans, European Asians to have posters or t-shits of Beckham, or Figo, or Armstrong or from Bono or from Eminem, but not from Sheenan or Tergat or Gebre or El Guerrouj.
If you want the best distance runners that´s in Kenya or Morocco or Ethiopia, anyhow in Africa, not out out Africa. Thus as this is a global capitalist market – more and more people goes to look for the “gold mine in Africa” and they have no more interest really in promoting running distance out of Africa.
Contrary to the one that said that the European decline and African boom that are two separate issues, I disagree completely. In more extend the European decline have to do with the African boom. And if we don´t face it right now and the man that lead our sport don´t have imagination to deal with this fact and change the direction in some few years the running will have just experts in the public – like i´m and you are – but the running distance in the top international level will have less and less interest from the public, because most of the public are out of Africa.
In one sentence - European decline of performances have to do with African dominance also and that dominance is killing all the interest for the distance running out of Africa.
The marathons and half marathons and road or cross runs they subsist and grow mainly by the fact that are open runs with an open entry and most are joggers that participate, and as that are very media events as well as trading events they invite the best runners to be there and you have the feeling that the mainstream is higher and higher every year, but that´s wrong. In every next years usually the best 50 to 100 performances that declines.
But in track 10000m event is disappearing from the meetings table and that´s less frequently to have a 10000m because African dominance also.