Mike Rowbottom

Many-tongued rumour passes through the city, and it speaks, not of Dido on this occasion, but the International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League.

And lo, the word is that when the League reduces itself from 16 to 12 events next season, as we are told it must, those that will be left outside city walls will be the 200 metres, the 3,000m steeplechase (and in that area, the 5,000m will be scaled down to 3,000m), the triple jump and the discus.

Nothing is yet decided. The IAAF, sensibly, is reserving its judgement until the season is over. But hang on. It now is. So there may be some firmer news soon, perhaps associated with the IAAF Council meeting scheduled for November 22.

In the meantime, there are voices. At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris, France’s world decathlon record holder Kevin Mayer spoke eloquently on behalf of all multi-event athletes, making the case for them to have a part to play in the new-look, slimmed-down, TV-friendly Diamond League in the form of the three-event competition that showcased him and fellow decathletes in the Stade Charlety.

Mayer’s case has been made at a time when the profile of multi-eventers is soaring. His own unfotrtunate withdrawal through injury while leading on day two of the IAAF World Championships, which concluded here yesterday, opened the way for Germany’s world under-20 champion Niklas Kaul to come through for gold, and his country is currently going nuts over him.

In the heptathlon the victory here of Britain’s Katerina Johnson-Thompson over the defending, European and Olympic champion from Belgium, Nafissatou Thiam, has set up a gripping prospect for a re-match at Tokyo 2020. 

France's world decathlon record-holder Kevin Mayer, forced to pull out of the World Championships through injury, is championing the cause of multi-events to be included in the future IAAF Diamond League format ©Getty Images
France's world decathlon record-holder Kevin Mayer, forced to pull out of the World Championships through injury, is championing the cause of multi-events to be included in the future IAAF Diamond League format ©Getty Images

And now another voice - concerned but largely constructive – is being heard, in the form of a detailed submission to all those responsible for shaping the Diamond League from a group named "Global Throwing", which numbers among its key members the coach and 1998 Commonwealth Games shot put bronze medallist for Wales, Shaun Pickering.

Among the other signatories are coaches such as American Mac Wilkins, Germany's Juergen Schult - holder of the longest standing world record in men’s track and field with his 1986 discus throw of 74.08 metres - and all the top throwers of the current day including newly installed world champion Daniel Stahl from Sweden and Jamaica's world silver medallist Fedrick Dacres, as well as Lithuania's Rio 2016 champion Andreas Gudžius and Poland’s former world champion Piotr Malachowski.

Their mission - to vouchsafe a Diamond League future for discus, one of the longest-standing elements of sport, as the Myron statue Discobolus, from the fifth century BC, attests.

The discus: discuss.

Just returning to the tone. Yes, concerned and largely constructive. But also frustrated.

"We would like to draw attention to the issue of the reduction of certain events from the future Diamond League format, as proposed by the IAAF, in conjunction with Wanda Sports/InFront, and particularly the lack of communication and interaction with those involved with the events under threat," the document starts.

"As representatives and coaches of many of the top Discus throwers, and on behalf of all Field Event Athletes we would urge you to reconsider your decision to remove certain events from the Diamond League without looking seriously at all viable alternatives.

"Athletics is a wonderful sport that appeals to all types and all shapes and sizes, which is why it is made up of both Track and Field events and you risk disenfranchising whole areas of the sport that you are supposed to support and represent.

"In this regard, you are failing in your responsibility to its participants, and at best lazy in your attempts to move all areas of the sport forwards and appeal to the biggest audience.

"Already in the current programme, the field events are marginalized in the TV Coverage they receive, usually limiting coverage to a review of the best three attempts, with no intent to tell the story of the competition, and athletes in certain events are offered reduced competition opportunities compared to other events.

"At a time when Discus and Triple Jump are at an all-time high level of performance, competitiveness and excitement at these World Championships and across the Diamond League, these events are threatened with removal from the Diamond League.

"This directly threatens the livelihood and ability of these athletes to perform at the highest levels, just as we have seen in the Hammer event which has been excluded from these competitions!

"We kindly ask you to read and consider the attached document, a summary of the current situation and some ideas that we would like the opportunity to discuss with you before you make any final decisions that would have a significant impact on many within the sport. We welcome your response."

A Roman copy of Myron's Discobolus statue from the fifth century BC on display at the British Museum in 2015 ©Getty Images
A Roman copy of Myron's Discobolus statue from the fifth century BC on display at the British Museum in 2015 ©Getty Images

The essence of the IAAF thinking, as informed by market research, is that the Diamond League needs to become an even more necessary, regular, and also sharper and snappier main element to the athletics season. And at the heart of this revised format will be a 90-minute window for television coverage - or in the case of the now single final, which will be held in Zurich for the next two years - a 150-minute window.

"This has a major impact on the Long Throws (men’s and women’s Discus and Javelin)," says the Global Throwing document, "as it is impossible to hold 4 separate Long Throws within the infield in a 150 minute format proposed for the Final. It is also difficult to hold 2 long throws within a 90 minute meeting.

"This is the driving force behind removing one of the existing Long Throws from the new format going forward."

The document goes on to say: "While the 200m athletes will still have an alternative in the 100m, and the Endurance athletes will always be well taken care of with 3,000m or additional programmed events where possible, the real losers here are the Discus Throwers and the Triple Jumpers for which there are no alternatives."

But, Global Throwing believes, there are some alternatives, which they are keen to raise with the IAAF.

Here are their suggestions.

Javelin and discus being part of the Diamond League in alternate years.

Limited Field sizes: Maximum of eight competitors so no need for reduction of field after three attempts

Computer-led scoring, not dependent upon Judges manually checking the order and positions, which decreases time required for the event, with athletes noting changes to throwing order.

Four attempts rather than the normal six.

Warm-up outside the arena, perhaps on portable facility, leaving infield free for more events.

Sweden's Daniel Stahl turns sprinter in celebration of his world discus gold in Doha ©Getty Images
Sweden's Daniel Stahl turns sprinter in celebration of his world discus gold in Doha ©Getty Images

Two events taking place at the same time. "For the Long Jump/Triple Jump, most major stadiums have dual run ups, so actually could accommodate a Men’s Long Jump alongside a Women’s Triple Jump…Javelin and Discus going on at the same time…The biggest issue here is that for this to work, both events need to be in the same direction, which means that the wind conditions may not be favourable for one event, but this is the only way it would be considered safe for the officials marking the throws in the field."

The final suggestion is to hold the discus event outside the arena in the way that shot put, and pole vault, have been accommodated in recent years within the Diamond League framework, with Brussels’ De Broukere square and Zurich’s main railway station proving successful hosts.

In order to vouchsafe a discus competition in Zurich for the Final, the missive writers suggest the flat, grassy, lake-side stretch of Landiwiese could stage discus/javelin contests in conjunction with the shot put. An alternative site could be the Park Arboretum.

As for the triple jumping case - that has been well put this season by, among others, the world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor and his US rival Will Claye, who are both now pushing towards world record territory.

Change is necessary. But change is hard.