Before we dive into the numbers, it is important to remember that equality is central to the IAAF’s mission. The IAAF Constitution and point C2 of the IAAF Code of Ethics relate to equality and non-discrimination “in any form.” Equality of events is as important as equality among individuals, as treating events differently will hurt our sport in the long-term and cause the numerous problems we’ve outlined this week. Sergey Bubka, IAAF Vice President and current candidate to take over the IAAF presidency, reiterated this point earlier in the month:
Every athletics discipline must be treated equally, there should be no compromise about that.
He’s right and I hope the IAAF sticks to it’s values and works to equalize the situation here. Because as it stands the standards are no where near equal and the process used to create them is far from transparent. To start with, take a look at the first chart below that analyzes the number of athletes that reached the new Olympic standards in 2014. On average, the field events have just one-third of the number of qualifiers as running events. Here is how it stacks up by event group, excluding the marathon as it is in another league with 1277 athletes reaching the respective standards in 2014.
And here is a more detailed look at how the situation in each individual event looks. At one end of the spectrum some of the sprints have more than 100 athletes over the qualifying standards. At the other end is the men’s hammer and men’s discus. The men’s hammer had just 10 athletes over the new standards and the men’s discus had just 11.
Update: You will notice that these charts do not take into account the IAAF’s three-athlete limit per country per event. This analysis has been several other places, and I refer you to race walker Evan Dunfee’s great analysis. Even taking that into account the field events are still at an advantage. But focusing on those numbers looks at just one purpose of the standards: championhip or Olympic qualification. As Terry and I have written about, the standards have a broader usage and interpretation that now requires parity for reasons beyond simply qualifying.
What would it look like if standards were equalized?
Terry’s article advocated using one method to set the standard for all events. He suggested setting the standard around the 40th or 50th best mark in the world. To see how this looks in practice, we’ve prepared a list of what the standards would look like if they were equal to the 40th best mark in the world from 2014. First off, what would that mean for each event? It would mean standards would be approximately 1% more difficult in the running events and 1-5% easier in the field events.
Below is a list of adjusted standards taking the 40th best mark in the world in 2014 as the new standard for each event.