Boots on the Ground in Glasgow: Josh Kerr Expects “Electric” Crowd, Seb Coe Explains Why Beijing Got 2027 Worlds

"It was difficult to get tickets, I’m not going to lie," Kerr said ahead of a World Championships on Scottish soil

GLASGOW, Scotland — Greetings from Glasgow! The 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships kick off on Friday and much of the track world has assembled in Scotland’s largest city. Noah Lyles is here. Seb Coe is here. World Athletics has even brought in 800-meter GOAT David Rudisha as an ambassador for the event — even though Rudisha never raced indoors during his career. (And it shows — while Rudisha said he is excited to see Lyles face Kenyan star Ferdinand Omanyala in Glasgow, he mistakenly said they would be racing at 100 meters rather than 60).

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The venue, Emirates Arena, right next to the iconic Celtic Park, is on the smaller side (capacity: 5,000). But it features a freshly-laid Mondo track (you can see a cool time-lapse of its construction here) and it is expected to be loud, especially when one of Scotland’s medal threats is on the track.

This place is going to be absolutely electric,” said one of those medal threats, 1500-meter world champion Josh Kerr, who last raced in Glasgow at the British championships in 2020. “Everyone feels like they’re on top of you. It’s going to be so loud and amazing and I don’t think anyone puts on a running event like the UK does.”

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Kerr did not commit to World Indoors until two weeks ago and said he delayed in committing because he wanted to ensure he would be where he wanted to be, physically, at the championships.

“The conversation [with coach Danny Mackey] had to be that the training had to come more easily than it normally did indoors,” Kerr said. “For me, it normally takes a little bit more time to build up into these events. The short track sometimes isn’t the most beneficial to my knees and hips and everything. So just making sure that the body wasn’t fighting the training.”

The toughest part of waiting so long to make a decision? Scrambling to fulfill ticket requests for the friends and family who want to see Kerr compete for a world title for the first — and likely last — time on Scottish soil.

“It was difficult to get tickets, I’m not going to lie,” Kerr said.

Kerr’s 8:00.67 2-mile world record at the Millrose Games on February 11 demonstrated that he is incredibly fit and offered further proof of the progress Kerr has made in the longer events after running 7:33 for 3,000 at the same meet last year. That sort of endurance is now necessary to succeed in the 1500 meters on the biggest stages of the sport. Of the six medals awarded at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships, four have gone to 1500/5000 men (Mo KatirNarve NordasJakob Ingebrigtsen x2).

No one would describe Kerr (13:23 5,000 pb) or his predecessor as world champion, Jake Wightman (who has never run a track 5,000 and has a 14:19 pb from the roads) as 1500/5000 guys, but both made concerted efforts to improve their endurance ahead of their gold-medal seasons. It has taken 3:29 to get on the podium at each of the last three global championships, and you have to be strong to run 3:29 in the third round of a championship. That, Kerr said, is why he is running the 3,000 rather than the 1500 in Glasgow.

“I think I have some untapped potential in the 3k,” Kerr said. “My 5k is horrible actually, probably one of the worst in the world. I’m trying to get better at that and trying to focus on some of the things that maybe I haven’t done well in the past. And hopefully that will bring me through the three rounds of the 1500 at the Olympics.”

And in case you’re wondering yes, Kerr was asked about Ingebrigtsen at the press conference. For once, he had nothing to say.

Seb Coe explains World Athletics’ decision to take 2027 World Championships to Beijing

It came as a surprise when World Athletics announced Wednesday that Beijing will host its biggest event, the outdoor World Championships, in 2027. While eight of the first 10 Worlds were staged in Europe, since then WA has made a concerted effort to move the event around the world. No continent has hosted two consecutive editions since Paris (2003) and Helsinki (2005), but that is about to change as the next two editions will be held in Tokyo (2025) and Beijing.

I have covered five World Championships for In terms of atmosphere, the two best were both held in Europe — London in 2017 and Budapest in 2023, with World Athletics president Seb Coe hailing the 2023 Worlds as the best ever. A big part of that: large, energetic crowds. Europe consistently delivers those, whether for Worlds or the European championships, because Europe is the beating heart of the sport and the continent’s geography makes it easy for fans to travel between major cities. Coe himself has said that it is crucial to fill any stadium that hosts a World Championship.

“Our sport can never afford to look marginal anywhere in a major championship,” Coe said last year.

Yet with Beijing hosting in 2027, it means that from 2019 to 2027 (at least), just one of five Worlds will have been staged in Europe. It also means that Africa, which has never hosted the meet, will again miss out. Kenya, notably, has expressed interest in hosting recently, but the challenge there is finding a facility worthy of the meet — Coe cited issues with Nairobi’s Moi Stadium as a reason why they lost out on the 2025 Worlds.

Track agent Dan Lilot — who is also one of the smartest and most knowledgeable track fans around — posted yesterday that Europe should never go more than two cycles without hosting Worlds (a point this columnist also made after Budapest last summer).

So how did we end up in China? Coe’s explanation is that a Beijing Worlds will help track & field capture attention in one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

“With a population of more than 1.4 billion, China is one of the biggest sports markets in the world,” Coe said in a release. “It was the top performer for Wanda Diamond League broadcast consumption in 2023 with a cumulative audience of 368.9 million. This poses a massive opportunity to grow our sport and fan base in one of the biggest commercial markets in the world.”

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Last year, it was reported that five major cities were interested in bidding for the 2027 Worlds, including Istanbul and Rome. But these things are expensive, and Rome withdrew its bid this week with the AP reporting that the Italian government refused to guarantee the $92 million required to host the meet. On Thursday, Coe downplayed the effect finances have had on host selection, noting that “a lot of cities” have expressed interest in hosting in 2029, 2031, and 2033.

“I don’t think it’s about the cost of hosting,” Coe said. “I think it’s about the complexity of political systems around the world. It is inevitable in a sport of over 200 federations you’re going to have different systems and sometimes it takes longer in some systems than others. We had to make a decision. We’ve got three years, seven months to deliver a championship. Seems to me about the right period of time.”

Beijing offers an iconic venue with the Bird’s Nest stadium, and crowds were good when it hosted the Olympics in 2008 and Worlds in 2015. But there are other factors at play. China has two things that make it an appealing site for global championships: an appetite for hosting major sporting events and significant governmental and financial backing. From 2022 to 2029, China will have hosted an indoor Worlds (2025), an outdoor Worlds (2027), a Winter Olympics (2022), and world championships in gymnastics (2027) and swimming (2029). Time and again, governing bodies like World Athletics, World Aquatics, and the IOC have been willing to send their showpiece events to an authoritarian state with a spotty human rights record in return for access to a massive market and a financially stable host.

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