Bringing big events to US will reverse decline in athletics popularity, believes sprint star

Tuesday, 15 May 2012
By Tom Degun at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas

Allyson Felix_14_MayMay 15 - Allyson Felix, America's Olympic sprint triple medallist, has admitted that track and field is suffering a major decline in popularity in the United States – but claimed she hopes the country is able to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games or the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in order to boost the sport's exposure.

The 26-year-old from Los Angeles, the only woman ever to win the 200 metres world title on three occasions, will be strong favourite for gold in the event at London 2012 having won silver over the distance at both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

But Felix has conceded she is concerned that the popularity of the sport is rapidly diminishing in her country in comparison with the 1980s track and field athlete Carl Lewis (pictured below) was one of America's most high-profile stars after winning nine Olympic gold medals, five of which he won on home soil at Los Angeles 1984 and Atlanta 1996.

"It is really disappointing [that the popularity is diminishing] and I think it is down to a number of things," Felix said here at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

Carl Lewis_-_long_jump_14_May
"I think that after high school and college, if you are not doing track at field at an elite level there is really nowhere you can do it.

"It is also with television and the different times that it is shown which are not always the best times for fans.

"We could go on and on, but I think an Olympics or World Championships in the US would be huge, and give track and field here a real boost."

She added: "I wish that I could have had a chance to compete in a home Games in my career – there would be nothing like it.

"I wasn't even connected with the sport when I was younger but I still have these memories of Michael Johnson (pictured below) and what he did in Atlanta 1996 [when he won the 200m and 400m].

"I have the greatest memories of all those Americans who competed in Atlanta and I think that is all just because it happened in the States.

"I'm very much hope the Games or the World Championships can come here in the future."

Bringing the Olympics and Paralympics to America remains a difficult subject as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has said that it will not bid for the event until its revenue-sharing agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is finalised, regarding how much money each party receives from broadcast rights for the Games in America.

Meanwhile, America is lacking a facility to host the IAAF World Championships, which they have never held since it began in 1983, despite dominating the medals table.

Michael Johnson_14_May
USA Track & Field communications director Jill Geer explained that it is an issue for the organisation.

"The biggest thing would be hosting the Olympics in the US," she told insidethegames.

"Whenever our athletes reference their heroes, they are always those who competed in the Olympics on US soil.

"So having it back here would be a big priority.

"Obviously having the World Championships would be hugely important too.

"We are the world's best track and field team, and we should also be a leader off the track.

"But to host the World Championships the first thing you need is the proper facility, and that is quite honestly something we lack in the US.

"If we had an Olympic bid city, like Chicago with 2016, we would have the opportunity to build a World Championships-size facility because you need to be able to seat a minimum of 40,000 people.

"So we need a facility and I think we could go from there."

Contact the writer of this story at tom.degun@insidethegames.biz
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