So When is Hammer Time?

Ronaldo Field in Beaverton will be the site of the U.S. Olympic Trials hammer throw competition.

I had mixed feelings when the U.S. Olympic Trials organizing committee officially announced its plan for “Hammer Time” last October. Moving the Olympic Trials hammer throw competition from Eugene up to the Portland area could very well highlight the event, but without the right support it also means that the hammer could further vanish into obscurity.

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed first hand how taking an event out of the stadium can benefit both the event and the meet. Here in Zurich, the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meeting invests hundreds of thousands every year into hosting an elite shot put competition in the train station the day before the meet. The shot put competition not only publicizes the main event, but draws more attention to the throwers than they likely would have received in the main stadium.

Hammer Time has this much potential and more. Taking place the day before the week-long festivities begin in Eugene, Hammer Time provides the Trials with a great promotional opportunity: the competition will take place in a bigger media market, on the campus (and with the backing of a Fortune 500 company), and produce the first members of the U.S. Olympic track and field team. Local media that might not travel to Eugene will no doubt highlight the event. But the overall success depends on how the Hammer Time is marketed and promoted.

There are a number of downsides too. Many of the sports core fans and media will be in Eugene and not Portland that day. The announced 12 hours of live national TV coverage only begins on Friday with the main competition. I also feel that the meet’s chosen format takes away one of my favorite parts of the Trials. Field events at the Trials normally take place over two days: a one day long qualifying round, and then a quick final featuring the top 12 throwers in the country on day two. The Hammer Time schedule sounds like a bore. The six hours of scheduled competitions will feature multiple flights of throwers with prelims and finals right after each other.

The USATF website says the Trials begin on June 22nd, one day after the hammer competition.

Conspiracy theorists immediately said that this decision was made not to highlight the hammer, but to free up some valuable space at Hayward Field. The popular stadium is already cramped for space, and the large hammer field just south of the stadium gives the meet directors and sponsors more room to accommodate fans and athletes. I disregarded these accusations at first, but am now coming around to them. I have seen no promotion of the event in the six months since it has been launched (despite my attempts to work with the meet organizers to promote it on this site). Vin Lannana and some local athletes visited Portland last Thursday to spread word about the Trials and top track journalist Ken Goe noted, “In Portland, 100 miles north, the Trials haven’t really registered.” What better opportunity is there to generate interest by mentioning that the Trials actually start in the Portland area? Instead, little or no reference was made to Hammer Time during the media blitz.

As defending US champion Kibwé Johnson said on Twitter this week, it is also frustrating to see all public references to the Trials mention the start date as June 22nd, when the event actually starts with the hammer on June 21st. Even the USATF website lists the Trials dates as “June 22 – 25 and June 28 – July 1, 2012” and when you click on the schedule it automatically skips the hammer and shows you the schedule for “Day 1 – June 22.”

I’m not ready to give up on the event since it still presents a great opportunity to highlight a wonderful event. With a near American record by Jessica Cosby on Friday and great progress by Kibwé Johnson this offseason, we could potentially see two American records at the event. But people have to be watching for it to grab the headlines. There are still two months left for things to change, and I’m hoping the organizing committee and Nike will use the opportunity to throw their weight behind Hammer Time for the benefit of our event and the Trials as a whole.

19 replies
  1. Paddy mc grath
    Paddy mc grath says:

    I think having the Hammer up in Portland is a disgrace!
    The hammer athletes deserve to be in the main venue along with the other events!! I feel the main reason this was cooked up was to get use of the 2 acre hammer field. This field will be used for media extra warm up area etc. To say this event is to promote Hammer is total crap!! I really hope I’am wrong but it seem’s are event ALWAYS get’s the shaft

  2. tb
    tb says:

    Their loss. I’m flying up to see the fan-friendliest hammer competition ever in this country and introducing a friend to the hammer at the same time. Later I will tune into NBC for stirring montages of athletes overcoming hangnails mixed with brief glimpses of the 100m dash.

  3. Jarrod Roberts
    Jarrod Roberts says:

    I know that I will be attending that day with the family and some of my Western Athletes are also trying to be down for the festivities. My only hope is that it does not get monkeyed too badly by the meet officials. Like you said Martin their is potential here for some great marks by some of our Nation’s best. Having read many comments from other individuals, many are Debbie Downers (as they rightly should be). However the fans of the hammer need to come out in force and be rabid in their support of the event. We need to make the media take notice not the other way around. A large number of field events are generally shafted by coverage in this country. So in order to be a success we need to have grass roots effort in self promotion. No one is ever going to hand you the keys to something and say here you go (still wishing). Nope we need to make the effort as fans to get the word out. We the fans and the athletes need to over saturate the media (more likely social media) to get the word out and to generate interest. Because clearly the national media could care less. So to wrap up we need to self promote plan and simple. I hope all of you enjoyed a great Easter weekend.

  4. BryanK
    BryanK says:

    Ya I cant wait to attend the comp, I would much rather be in it, but I should be there either way. One of the things I always think about is the importance of the event for an athlete. If you go to nationals and there are only 20 fans total its not as if your going to give up and throw less, your going to get into your zone and throw as far as possible because that is why you are there no matter what everyone else thinks of you or your sport.
    I know having it in West Portland area could mean less media, but the way I think of it is the hammer athletes competing there are gaining an advantage over other event athletes and that is not being in the same place as thousands of other people flying in and driving to the Eugene campus. It will be so much less stressful for athletes flying in to simply fly right to the Portland airport and get a hotel very close to the competition area, trying to navigate around Eugene and finding parking sounds terrible to me.

  5. Kibwé
    Kibwé says:

    If anything, we are getting more people talking about it. I have been told that a broadcast deal was reached with a local cable company in Portland to showcase the event on the 21st. I believe that the finals will be shown in their entirety. (Don’t quote me though) So I’m not too worried about that. Also, this footage will be cut for presentation at Hayward Field when the the USA’s first Olympians are introduced in Eugene. What will be done with the footage afterwards, I don’t know. I am afraid that if they continue with posting that the Trials begin June 22, we will be a mere afterthought when the action in Eugene heats up.

    However, it is my opinion that more needs to be done to promote the event. But at the end of the day, the best promotion may just be people knowing that the threat of the AR’s going down.

    Ultimately, I embraced Hammer Time immediately because when it comes down to it, it’s not going to change, and negative energy about where I may, or may not be competing is not what I need. All I need is my hammer, a ring, and about 280′ of sector room. 😉

    Bottom line for me is, I really do think they are doing a great job, I’d just like to see more promotion, possibly with actual Hammer throwers in Portland and Eugene.

    Let’s keep raising awareness!

  6. Loree Smith
    Loree Smith says:

    I found about this move pretty much after everything was set into motion and I immediately was one of the conspiracy theorist… I’ve tried to voice the opinions and concerns of hammer throwers at the annual meeting but much was already decided. That being said, no more complaining and being negative about this. This is the site of the Olympic trials for the hammer throw. We have to look to the positive and hope for the best or make the best of whatever happens.

    I agree it can be awesome… we might get a great crowd, we might be highlighted, it could be the first of many great highlighted comps to come… There is no doubt going to be an amazing view, a great competition among us throwers, but I’d like to see more done to show that to the rest of track and field/Eugene/Portland community. They said they wanted to highlight it and put on a great show… well, let’s see it. What should we be doing to help? I want it to be first the best competition for us throwers (with a perfect field,circle, cage, and atmosphere) and second a great show for the crowd (preferably a big crowd!).

    There are a lot of concerns around it, and we were told a lot of this to make us happy. There was talk of all the t.v. coverage we would get, how much would be played the next day during trials, that we’d show off the Olympic uniforms and get a victory laps as the first on the team, hotels and accommodations, buses and vans as many of us have coaches who now have to budget in another two or three days and travel. There are many valid concerns, some of which is what the venue is going to look like. I was told they would try to have a competition on it before trials started, now we’re told it will be open up to three days before. Let’s hope they lay everything fine with such short notice, we all have horror stories of poorly set up throws areas.

    Being marginalized is feeling more common place with the hammer. I admit, unfortunately, I’m at a point of acceptance… Not sure if fighting or working with what you have is better. How many competitions do we throw the day before or hours before the first event? How many competitions do we throw somewhere else completely? Or our event not held at all? Let’s not forget the complete revamping of the Diamond league to make an effort to be more inclusive of all events… all events except the hammer.

    My biggest worry, sometimes we have a hard time getting people to know there is a competition behind the stadium… are they doing enough to get the word out there that we’re 100 miles away and not even during the trials!?

    If this is a success, then great! We no longer have to fight for a crowd or the space designated for outhouses, we might just have our own kick-ass competition! If not… then we’ll not have the Olympic trails experience, just a meet like any other but in a really cool place.

  7. Martin
    Martin says:

    @Loree and @Kibwe:l Like I said I think this can have a happy ending. I hope to promote it more in the future so we can keep getting the word out. We can make it a great event.

  8. Krishnan Kartha
    Krishnan Kartha says:

    My wife and I and 2 friends are flying in to Portland to catch Hammer Time before driving to Eugene. We know you will put on a great show and are looking forward to catching all of it.

  9. John Dagata
    John Dagata says:

    I am shocked by what is happening with the Hammer Throw at the Olympic Trials! First of all separating any event from the Olympic Trials shouldn’t be allowed. If USATF wanted to have the Long Jump in Kansas would that be allowed? Second by moving the hammer to Portland for some reason this means having Men’s and Women’s Hammer on the same day, trials and finals, a 3 + 3 structure. Therefore the structure of the Olympic Trials competition is compromised and will be different than every other field event for the Olympic Trials. This also means three less throws for the throwers who would have made the finals on the second day of competition. This to me is significant and very confusing because it’s not preparing the athletes for what they will have to do at the Olympics. Which is exactly what the other field events at the Olympic Trials will be doing, qualifying on one day, trials and finals on a separate day. And finally I know for a fact the hammer area in Eugene will be used in some way for either vendor space or set-up space. I find it insulting when I am told this Is all due to ”Highlight the Hammer” and we all know what this is really about. Every athlete who qualifies for the Olympic Trials should have the experience of competing in Eugene with similar qualifying structures to make the USA Olympic Team.

  10. Grant Wall
    Grant Wall says:

    I agree that this event rides a fine line of potential success or failure. As always the hammer community needs to promote this event to allow success. Though it is set aside from the main venue, every other event, and may not get any live broadcasting there is still potential to make this an historic event on American soil. How many fans stand around to watch the hammer at Eugene? 500-800. After awhile there is no visual space available to watch the event due to the set up at Eugene. Though I have not seen the set up for Hammer Time I can only hope that there will be more visual spacing for the event. In this regard will the event be able to accommodate 1000? 2000? 3000? 5000? If so and if we can get that many to the event wouldn’t that be a huge success? We are fortunate in the fact that for a country that has very few states that sponsor the hammer at the high school level that the event is in Oregon. With Oregon and Washington having a quality base, in relation to the rest of the county, of hammer throwing at the sub-elite level. So there is a pool of young athletes that this could be a life changing experience. How many of us are using social media to promote this event? Is there a Hammer Time twitter account or Facebook page that can be sent out to all the hammer fans out there? Is there a website specifically set up for Hammer Time? Giving us up to date stats on where the top 50 hammer men and women stand? How they are progressing through there seasons? Can this site be maintained past this event to promote hammer throwing specifically? There is a high percentage chance that this event can be a failure, but I feel that there can be an overwhelming chance that this can be a huge success and make a big push for American Hammer throwing and for the next Olympics and beyond.

  11. Brian Richotte
    Brian Richotte says:

    I believe I heard somewhere along the way the employees of Nike (15,000ish) would be encouraged to attend, and with the promise of a beer garden, that may actually happen! The rendering was pretty cool and with Lance overseeing the cage/circle I am confident that is will be thrower friendly.

    Has anyone actually emailed/called someone for the USATF to change the website? Maybe it should be a collective effort.

  12. PatD
    PatD says:

    I live near Nike and have been on their campus many times. I also officiate at Hayward in Eugene, although not the hammer. I have officiated the hammer at small college meets, however. The hammer ring at Hayward is, as others have said, out to the south of Hayward field itself. It is already in a ‘step child’ location. The field was also converted to artificial turf last year, which is probably not ideal for an event at this level, just a recognition of what happens when it rains in Oregon.

    Nike does not do anything half way. Their campus is incredible and I have absolutely no doubts that the facility will be first class. “Local media” is all over track & field in general and I have no doubts that the coverage will be complete. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Field events don’t get lots of television coverage anyway. Having hammer on its own day may give it more attention that it will otherwise get. I don’t think there is any way it can get less. Come and enjoy.

  13. peter van aken
    peter van aken says:

    the 2004 Athens Olympics shotput seemed pretty impressive even though the location was moved away from the main stadium…but it wasn’t as far away as Portland is from Eugene. I forget- was that a trials/finals on the same day???

    I also suggest an additional “stadium” medal ceremony on the 22nd, to have the athletes recognized in front of their peers and spectators.

  14. Martin
    Martin says:

    Hey Peter,

    A medal ceremony is already planned, so that will be great. Athens was also a one-day event, but a little different. If I remember correctly they had the 3 throw qualifying round in the morning and then a separate 6 throw final later in the day. Having all on one day is typical for the shot put at world events. The hammer in Eugene will be a little different since there is just the 6 throws on one day (no separate qualifying round).

  15. Gophertrackshots
    Gophertrackshots says:

    Just got an e-mail today from the USATF about arrangements for media to attend Hammer Time. They are going to provide shuttle service for media who are in Eugene before the 21st to get up to Portland for Hammer Time.

    Has someone set up a facebook page for this event? That is a surprisingly effective way to drum up awareness and enthusiasm.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The decision to move the hammer away from the main event has stirred a bit of controversy since little was done to initially promote the event. Even within the last week there were three separate reports of Nike employees telling individuals […]

  2. […] thrower (and House of Run’s Chief Throws Correspondent) Martin Bingisser says there are positives and negatives to hosting the Olympic Trials hammer competition in Portland.  I say mostly negative, but Martin knows more about these things than I do (and is also much, […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *