Three news items I saw today that are of interest to track fans…
1. Adharanand Finn’s new book project
Finn is the author of the wildly popular Running With the Kenyans, which I chose as the “Best Track Book of 2012″. His next book is tentatively titled Ekiden Men. From TheBookSeller.com:
The new title will explore the philosophy of long distance running in Japan, with Finn embedding himself in their training schedules as teams prepare for ekidens–relay marathons. The main ekiden, run on New Year’s Day, is the biggest event in Japan’s sporting calendar and attracts viewing figures comparable to the Superbowl in the USA.
Finn has yet to travel to Japan for the project, slated for publication in April 2015.
What next? What other track and field cultures could Finn immerse himself in? Jamaican sprinters? Finnish javelin throwers?
2. Usain Bolt, part one
Bolt has not competed in any British Diamond League meets as the current UK laws would require him to pay taxes on not only his income from the meet itself but a portion of his annual global earnings, an arrangement that would make him pay more in taxes than he’d earn from the meet. Obviously, that’s a non-starter.
These laws were waived for athletes competing in last summer’s Olympic Games (as is also done for other major international competitions such as the Champions League final), and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne just announced that this July’s London Grand Prix will get the same treatment. This opens the door for Bolt to make an appearance, which he strongly wishes to do (but to which he has not yet committed).
The Telegraph’s Simon Hart goes on:
The meeting, which forms part of the international Diamond League series, was originally due to be staged in its traditional home of Crystal Palace but was switched to the Olympic Stadium last month to mark the first anniversary of the Games on July 27.
It is understood that the meeting will retain its two-day format, with an evening session on Friday, July 26, and a second session the following day. The two days of competition are now set to be one of the highlights of the athletics summer, possibly even rivalling the World Championships in Moscow in August in terms of spectator interest.
The huge number of people who have already registered for priority tickets on the UK Athletics website means there are high hopes that both sessions will be an 80,000 sell-out.
Various comments at the TFN message boards indicate that an 80,000-seat sellout is felt to be likely. If it happens on either day, it appears that it would be the best single-day attendance ever for a track meet outside of the Olympics or World Championships. To say that it would be a massive boost for track in the UK is understatement, and I think it would have a knock-on effect elsewhere as well.
Besides, that would be some awesome atmosphere for an invitational.
3. Usain Bolt, part two
Bolt will play in the 2013 Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, televised live on ESPN on Friday, February 15.
How cool is that? He has to be able to dunk. Thunderdunk. I doubt he’s got much basketball skill, but his leaping ability is probably off the charts.
And…he will sooooo be the center of attention, on ESPN, at an event that draws lots of sports media that otherwise will be mostly bored for the rest of the weekend. This guy knows how to self-promote. His smiling mug will be everywhere in the one country’s sports media (ours) that international tracksters find most impenetrable. Bolt understands like no one else that being great at your sport is only half of a professional athlete’s job requirements; the other half is to be a professional celebrity.