Prefontaine Classic Director Tom Jordan on New Diamond League Format: Original Proposal Was to Drop All Races Longer Than the Mile

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By LetsRun.com
March 15, 2019

Earlier this week, the IAAF announced that the Diamond League will be undergoing major changes in 2020. The number of meets will be pared down, the international TV window will be reduced from 2 hours to 1.5 hours, and most controversially for distance running fans across the globe, no event over 3,000m will be contested as an official Diamond League event.

We reached out to Tom Jordan, the meet director of the Prefontaine Classic, the only Diamond League meet in the Americas, for his thoughts on the changes. Jordan asked us to email him our questions. We sent him a list of questions and the ones he replied to are below.

The biggest news to come out of Jordan’s responses is that the Diamond League initially wanted to drop ALL races over the mile, but that plan was scrapped. Jordan also said that he expects the flat 3,000m to be a contested event in 2020.

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LetsRun.com: How involved was the Pre Classic in these discussions [about the changes to the Diamond League]?

Tom Jordan: Pre Classic staff were involved in the discussions. For example, the original proposal by the Working Group was to have no distance events at all; nothing longer than 1500/Mile. We said this was unacceptable, and the 3k was added. Our suggestion was that if the time schedule allows it, the 5k could be substituted for the 3k at certain meets. We are still working to have this approved.

LetsRun.com: What are your thoughts on the decision for the IAAF to axe the 5000 for the 3000? Steve Prefontaine and many of the distance stars of today and recent memory (Farah, Bekele, Gebrselassie, Dibaba, Defar) are associated with the 5,000 and the average hobby jogger can relate to the 5,000, so many people are baffled by the decision to drop the 5,000 for the 3,000 (an event not held at the World Championships) to save six minutes on the program. Why does the IAAF/Diamond League think this will help? Couldn’t they just start the 5000 six minutes before the TV window begins and join it mid-race at the top of the program? Can you go more into the decision making behind that? Why not let some meetings offer the 5,000 instead of the 3,000? I think it’s fair to say distance running fans, the primary audience of LetsRun.com (1-1.5 million unique visitors every month), vastly prefer the 5,000 to the 3,000.

Jordan: The change from 5k to 3k is for Diamond League events only. There is nothing prohibiting any DL meet from offering a 5k or a 10k as an Additional Event. For example, the Pre Classic has had several 10ks in the past 9 years on Distance Night in Eugene. We anticipate doing something similar in 2020 and beyond. Many meets will also have a 2-hour broadcast window, 90 minutes for the international feed and 30 minutes of Additional Events. So, for example, if the women’s 3k is a DL event, there could also be a men’s 5k in the first 30 minutes of a 2-hour broadcast. (It wouldn’t work to have both a w3k and w5k, as it splits up the talent too much.)

LetsRun.com: On second thought, we are wondering if we’re reading this wrong. It says there will be no event over 3,000m. It doesn’t say there will be a 3,000. Do you anticipate the 3,000 will be a Diamond League event in 2020?

Tom Jordan at 2016 Prefontaine Classic Press Conference

Jordan: Yes.

LetsRun.com: We’ve been studying the IAAF world ranking system a lot and it’s clear that the non-Diamond League races at Pre offer a ton of bonus points. Are you aware that winning a non-DL race at Pre is worth more than winning the US Olympic Trials and will that impact what events you offer in 2019 and 2020? Let’s say Pre is set to offer a DL 3000 for women in 2020. Is there anything to prevent you from offering a non-DL 5000 on Friday night as well and huge shot for bonus ranking points for people who run this event?

Jordan:  We’re asking for clarification.

LetsRun.com: Do you have any insight on what events will be cut from
the Diamond League for 2020? Have these events been determined and if not, how will they be determined?

Jordan: The events have not been determined. A suggestion for LetsRun.com: ask your readers to take a survey. Which 2 running events and 2 field events would they eliminate from the list of DL events? Keep in mind the Hammer Throw is not part of the DL program.

LetsRun.com: Is the Diamond League going to be held weekly on a set schedule in 2020 or will the schedule be fairly random as it is now? The initial Diamond League was supposed to increase the popularity of track and field. Is there any indication it has done that?

Jordan: The calendar is always the biggest challenge. The weekly schedule is a goal, but not a mandate. International television audiences have increased steadily over the past 9 years, which may be an indication of popularity.

LetsRun.com: Is there any thought of the Pre Classic leaving the Diamond League?

Jordan: Not at this time.

LetsRun.com: How is the Hayward rebuild going? Do you have anything special in the cards for the meet this year since it will not be held at its normal home?

Jordan: We have heard the rebuild is ahead of schedule.

LRC note: The Pre Classic this year will be at Stanford on June 30, while Hayward Field undergoes reconstruction. Tickets go on sale this Monday.