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World Athletics Series faces shake-up

NAIROBI, Kenya, September 25 – The IAAF World Athletics Series (WAS) is in line for a shake-up owing to the declining interest in some of the global events in the programme.

November’s IAAF Council Meeting set for Barcelona, Spain could provide a watershed for some of the competitions whose death knell has been sounded including the World Cross Country Championships that are now biennial.

Speaking on the proposed reforms in Nairobi on Tuesday, IAAF Council Member and Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat also affirmed his nation that has excelled in some of the events under review was concerned about the future of the country’s distance runners.

“Events like World Half Marathon, World Cross Country, the Continental Cup (formerly World Cup) and World Youth championships are getting no bidders and are almost dying.”

“Television is also becoming a problem since they do not want to cover some events because they are not attractive and they do not get sponsors,” Kiplagat said.

“We are trying to ask the IOC to include the World Cross as part of the Winter Olympics but logistically it is difficult to get 24 competitors from each nation participating accommodated.”

“At the moment, we are discussing at IAAF which events can be sustained and those that cannot and plans are underway to contract a strong marketing company that will advice on which events to be scrapped and retained,” the Council Member stressed.

Already, the world governing body is considering including the World Half Marathon as part of the biennial World Championships in Athletics while continents are being encouraged to stage their own Cross Country events annually.

Bahamas will host the inaugural World Relay Championships in 2014 as the IAAF attempts to stoke the interest in athletics at a global level to leverage their financial obligations for sponsors of the WAS.

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“When you reduce an event from the WAS, you must put another and that is why World Relay may replace the World Half Marathon since the sponsors have signed a 15-year deal for all events and when you pull one out, they will question where their money went,” Kiplagat explained.

With Kenya and arch rivals Ethiopia dominating the World Cross for two decades that was cited as a major reason global interest – especially from monied Europe and America subsided – Kiplagat noted the gradual demise of the event was agonizing for the country as a conveyor belt of distance running talent.

“It is a worry but continents are being encouraged to have their own cross country series. If there is no cross country, then there will be no track since every athlete who wants to be a (distance) champion must go through cross country.”

“Here in Kenya, we must continue to have our cross country and CAA (Confederation of African Athletics) is discussing introducing prize money to the Africa Cross Country to motivate our runners,” he outlined.

Ten events make up the WAS, namely, World Championships, World Indoor, World, World Half, World Junior, World Youth, World Race Walking Cup, World Marathon Cup, Continental Cup and now the World Relays that will be held annually from 2014.

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