April 16, 2015
A teleconference was held this morning with TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna, USATF CEO Max Siegel, USATF President Stephanie Hightower, and new USATF Board Chair Steve Miller about the surprising decision of the IAAF to award the 2021 World Championships to Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. It will be the first time the Worlds have been in the USA. Eugene had bid for the 2019 Worlds, but lost out to Doha, Qatar. Eugene was awarded the 2021 Worlds without the IAAF going through the customary bidding process with the IAAF Council voting 23 to 1 with 1 abstention for Eugene according to Christopher Clarey of the NY Times.
All of the people on the call stressed this was a “group effort” between Track Town USA and USATF. As for the timeline involved, Eugene lost the bid for Worlds 2019 in November in Monaco. Immediately the idea was floated by USATF CEO Max Siegel to keep pushing for 2021. Vin Lananna was having dinner with Siegel in Monaco after the vote and Lananna said, “We came away from it disappointed… But I remember the conversation we had (at dinner)…and you said ‘ahh we should go forward in 2021.’ I won’t say exactly what I said after that but we knew we had the desire to go forward.”
They reached out to IAAF President Lamine Diack and met with him in February and he encouraged them to push forward, but he would have to do this with IAAF Council approval. The IAAF Council was meeting this week in Beijing and Lananna flew to China. TrackTown USA did not have to formally bid again, they only had a letter they presented. A vote was held by the Council and Eugene was awarded the Worlds.
Congratulations and Thank You, Mr. Lananna. TrackTown USA is the one entity getting the most done for track and field in the USA. The concept of hosting a Worlds in tiny Eugene, Oregon, is a crazy one on the surface, but TrackTown USA had the vision to dream big and bid, and their perseverance paid off. Success has followed Vin Lananna at all of his stops in his career and that isn’t a coincidence.
- Thank You, Max Siegel. Siegel apparently was the first one who verbally expressed the idea of going after 2021. Eugene may have gone after it anyway, but credit should go to a leader who did not sulk after losing 2019. Qatar lost the bid for 2017 and the IAAF encouraged Qatar to go after 2019 and they initially indicated they were not interested before changing their minds. There was no hesitation here by USATF.
- The Old School Way of Doing Business Prevails. The USATF Board talks about a new era coming to the IAAF and wanting to be a part of it. Maybe they should be careful what they ask for as nearly all of their successes have come from the old school backroom way of doing business. In justifying its decision to nominate Stephanie Hightower to the IAAF Council against the wishes of 85% of the USATF membership, the USATF Board pointed to the “the political changes taking place at the IAAF (with IAAF President Lamine Diack stepping down later this year), and how USATF could most effectively be part of them…. were the considerations that were the crux of our decision [to nominate Hightower].” The Board even smeared the current IAAF leadership a little writing, “The IAAF is under considerable scrutiny at the moment as the handling of doping protocols and charges of corruption related to certain business dealings within the highest level of the organization are currently under investigation… Regime change at the top brings with it regime change at all levels… Given this climate of monumental political change at the IAAF, and given how closely Mr. Hersh is connected to the tenure and administration of the outgoing presidency, the board believes USATF would compromise the United States’ political position at the IAAF if we were to nominate a candidate for Council who is part of that past, outgoing power and leadership structure.” USATF appears to be thriving under the current, old school way of doing business. Not only did Eugene win Worlds, but USATF also signed a huge endorsement deal through 2040 with Nike without letting other shoe companies bid on it. Very old school as well (and we think a mistake in the case of the Nike deal to not be more transparent).Winning Worlds for the USA however in 2021 is not a mistake for track and field in the United States. Other countries may not like how the process played out (it’s worth pointing out that as, Alan Abrahamson has noted, the 2007 Worlds also were given out to Osaka without a formal bid), but credit deserves to go to TrackTown USA and Vin Lananna for pulling off what many thought was impossible.