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Let’s Face It: The Diamond League is Boring

Benn Harradine is the Australian record holder in the discus as well as an Olympic and World Championship finalist. You can learn more about him and read his entertaining blog on his homepage or find him on twitter at @bennharradine. He is also well known for his creative competition kits (see below) and innovative ideas to promote the sport. Martin Bingisser is a hammer thrower, Swiss national coach and founder of HMMR Media. He blogs regularly here on HMMR Media and you can also find him on twitter at @bingisser.

Our sport has a problem: the Diamond League is banal and familiar. Every competition whether viewed live or through the truncated telecast, is predictable. Similar events with similar athletes wearing similar uniforms, just in a different venue with a slight increase or decrease in performance. That is the Diamond League as we know it. Read more

The Big Shot Returns to Zurich

While the Weltklasse Zürich Diamond League bills itself as the “Olympics in a day”, it is hardly a one-day event. For me, the action began on Tuesday as I coached some kids to throw medicine balls and toy javelins with Valerie Adams at the Weltklasse Zürich Kids Clinic.

On Wednesday I attended the “Big Shot” shot put competition with Kibwe. For the second year in a row, the shot put competition was held one day before the main meet and placed in the center of Zürich’s main train station. With over 350,000 people a day passing through there, it made for a packed and energetic venue. We produced a video for Flotrack (see below) showing a behind the scenes look at the venue, the competition, and the competitors. The competition was thrilling. Valerie Adams controlled the women’s competition until Nadzeya Ostapchuk took a brief lead. Adam responded for the win. The podium for the meet (and the final podium for the overall Diamond Race) were the same as in Daegu. The men’s competition was very close and the top five throwers were nearly within a foot of each other. Reese Hoffa led for much of the competition before a struggling Ryan Whiting found his technique in the final round. Then, on his last attempt, my old training partner Dylan Armstrong responded for the win. His first place also secures a victory in the Diamond Race for him. Young Swiss shot putter Gergori Ott also got to throw with the big boys and set a new national under 18 record of 20.00 meters with the 5-kilogram shot put.

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How to Make the Diamond League Sparkle

As the first year of the Diamond League drew to a close last weekend, reviews and commentary are beginning to pop up online. The comments so far, however, have focused mostly on whether or not the series has been good for the athletes. I think that’s a fairly simple question to answer: it tends to be better for some of the minor events and worse for the top events. The shot putters I’ve talked to have loved the series. The event was rarely included in the Diamond League in the past decade, but this year they have been included in a high-profile meets getting the athletes both more exposure and more money. Other events have seen a decline in competitions and earnings. Because more events have been included, appearance fees have become rare in order to pay for the extra events (except for the select few Diamond League Ambassadors). A Twitter exchange between sprint star turned TV announcer Ato Boldon, high jumper Jamie Nieto, and sprint Lisa Barber concluded with Nieto saying “The Diamond League is making it real hard to make a living. Something has got to change.” The split program concept, where meets alternate hosting certain events, also means less meets for 100m runners and stars from events that used to be included in every meet. Sprinter Carmelita Jeter told Spikes Magazine that “This year I had about 40 to 50% less races, because of the split programme concept.” (By my count, she’s only done 13 meets outdoors this year versus 23 last year). This also hurts mid-level athletes, since some of the top athletes are now entering mid-level meets to fill the gaps in their schedule, which is leaving the mid-level athletes with fewer chances to compete.

The fans came out to watch the Diamond League, but was the new series a success? Photo by lejoe on Flickr.

So, to summarize, some athletes win and some lose. And that doesn’t even mention the hammer throw, which was excluded from the series all together. Of greater interest to me, however, is whether the Diamond League met its goal of expanding the brand of athletics. Meeting that goal will help the athletes, coaches, meet directors, and everyone involved in the sport.
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