RRW: TrackTown USA Says Goodbye to WJC’s, Turns to Future Championships

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By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
July 28, 2014

EUGENE, OREGON — Thirty-eight buses have begun the back-and-forth journey to airports here and in Portland, Ore., shuttling more than 1700 athletes who competed at the IAAF World Junior Championships. Fewer than 24 hours after the final gold medal was presented, TrackTown USA has begun a transformation, bidding adieu to thousands of spectators, fans, volunteers, and athletes.

Moving trucks are parked outside of historic Hayward Field, loaded with everything from television equipment to hurdles. Sidewalks, once filled with athletes sporting jackets from hundreds of countries around the globe, are now empty.

With the conclusion of these championships, TrackTown USA’s President Vin Lananna breathed a sigh of relief. The former head track and field coach and assistant athletic director at the University of Oregon summed the games up as a fulfilled promise, a festive atmosphere that surpassed his expectations.

“As far as I was concerned, when we made the presentation to the [IAAF] council a couple of years ago, we told them we were going to give them an exciting, enthusiastic crowd and a community that was going to embrace these athletes and provide them with the best experience possible,” Lananna told the media on Sunday. “Based on all measures that we have anecdotally, this was a grand success.”

A total of 51,532 spectators filled the grandstands of Hayward Field over the course of six days, making for a festive and celebratory atmosphere that reached a crescendo on Saturday and Sunday.

Now that competition has concluded and athletes are on their way out of town, Lananna and TrackTown USA turn their attention to a pair of big events looming on the horizon: the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships –to be held in Portland some 120 miles north of here– and the potential opportunity to host the 2019 IAAF World Outdoor Championships.

While athletes celebrated the conclusion of the meet by taking selfies on Hayward Field’s track and trading team gear with other competitors, Lananna spoke at length about what the future holds.

“These kids, I hope what they saw was what could happen on a bigger stage when they go to the senior world championships and there are 40,000 people in the stadium,” he said. “The Oregonians, and in particular those spectators who came from Eugene, our Hayward Field faithful, did a great job. I have no doubt that if they want to do this in 2019, yes we can pull it off.”

Lananna said he plans to meet with members of his staff today to review all aspects of the meet, hoping to learn what needs to be done better when Portland plays host to the three-day World Indoor Championships in under than two years.

“I’m sure there are some,” Lananna responded when asked about what specific alterations he’d make. “Right now, standing here, I would say every national anthem that was played, every kid that walked in, every smile that was on the podium, that’s what I’ll choose to focus on today and maybe on Monday we can figure out what those tweaks are.”

Lananna did not answer if the International Association of Athletics Federation had given any feedback on the job TrackTown USA did, simply saying that he did not want to speak for the international governing body.

Touching upon the strengths of Eugene as a host city, Lananna was impressed by the University of Oregon’s ability to host athletes and provide a relaxed and comfortable living environment. Athletes could often be seen playing basketball and beach volleyball during the championships, conversing with other nations. All competitors resided in the University’s dormitories, a setting that allowed them to mingle freely.

From this writer’s perspective, the city of about 156,000 people proved itself as the track and field capital of North America. Lananna described the host’s role as authentic.

“It’s a love of the sport for track and field,” he said, pausing to try and put his thoughts into words. “I think that for many years, this community has done it’s share world wide to host great events. I think that if I looked at what the difference would be [between a World Junior and World Senior Championship], it would just be more people with the same enthusiasm, and same excitement, embracing the athletes that compete here.”

Lananna made sure that all reporters knew TrackTown USA had not yet decided whether or not to bid for the 2019 World Championships. If they did bid and were awarded the games, it would be the first time that an IAAF World Outdoor Championships was held in the United States.

“We will make a final determination in mid-September about 2019. Our desire is there to put a bid in, but we have not officially submitted a bid and will not do that until the 25th of September,” Lananna confirmed.

Portland 2016 is the next big challenge, though Lananna firmly believes it is “going to be a killer” of a meet.

“The Oregonians will embrace that and it will be fantastic,” he said. “It’ll be a big event. It’s not just going to be a track meet. It’s going to be a celebration of the sport of track and field, and I think Oregonians should be front and center in that celebration.”