The IAAF Diamond League could implement changes to its unpopular field event system before the end of the season
Changes to the unpopular Diamond League technical event system could be introduced before the end of the 2016 season after the event’s founder and vice-chairman confirmed a review will likely be conducted in the Olympic break.
The IAAF’s flagship grand prix series introduced changes to the system for horizontal jumps and throws at the start of the season, allowing only the top four competitors a full set of six throws or jumps after the first three rounds.
The changes have proven largely unpopular with athletes and fans alike, resulting in the creation of widely-spread Twitter hashtags of #3isnotenough, #6jumpsplease and #6throwsplease.
According to Patrick K Magyar (pictured below), former director of the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meet and founder of the series, a review of the system’s success is likely to take place during the Rio Olympics, and may well see it altered in time for the last four fixtures on the calendar.
Magyar told AW: “We don’t have yet a perfect solution but we believe it’s worthwhile trying out things for the benefit of the sport and the athletes. We’re not sure we have that yet, but as soon as we have some solid evaluation, which includes how many technical disciplines are being shown in the world feeds, we will go back and discuss that with the athletes.”
One change could see all athletes offered four jumps, rather than six, though Magyar said that it may not be a popular solution for broadcasters.
US world and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor spoke out in favour of the Diamond League’s efforts to bring more attention to the field events (see AW’s June 9 issue) but the largely negative response, Magyar believes, has been down to the Diamond League’s failure to communicate the logic behind the switch to the athletes.
“The last thing we intended was to make life difficult for the athletes. We would very, very much like these athletes get a better exposure,” Magyar said. “I think it’s important once they understand where we are coming from, they might disagree with the solution but they certainly understand there is no ill idea behind it. To the contrary, we would like to make them more popular.”
He added: “After a careful analysis of how often in these meetings – and it’s different for championships – we can see the best attempts are being done in the last three attempts. In meetings the large majority of top attempts are done earlier on.
“The idea was to move the last three attempts of these top four athletes always in the main TV programme.”
Live broadcast-quality feeds of every event are offered to international broadcasters, allowing them to insert real-time footage of field events into their coverage.
So far the feedback of the changes to the technical event schedule from broadcasters has been overwhelmingly positive and according to Magyar the global exposure of field events has seen a significant increase on previous years.
Magyar added: “The BBC has a way of their programme where they focus very much on races and then they are having lots of interviews and analysis in between. They are one of the broadcasters which shows very little of the technical disciplines.
“With these additional changes we want them to be encouraged to use them and be able to show more technical disciplines in a narrative. They can show the top four athletes in a live or semi-live fashion for the last three attempts. That I think is an important point.”
Greg Rutherford was highly critical of the new system, describing it as a “farce” after seeing five consecutive jumps skipped by the top four athletes on his way to winning the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Rome, resulting in an acceleration of the contest and a further reduction in recovery periods between efforts.
Officials at the next four events up to Rio will be asked to communicate more with the final four athletes in an attempt to increase the recovery time for athletes between their last three efforts.
Magyar explained: “We have many people on the ground and can be a bit more in permanent discussion with the athletes and see how fast to push them and how not. The idea was really to have that from the beginning but that is not so easily implemented because it’s difficult from a technical point of view to go faster or slower once you start with a certain rhythm.”
Rutherford has hinted he may opt to look for competition outside of the Diamond League in the build-up to the defence of his Olympic title in Rio, but Magyar feels the pressure of the first three attempts could aid athletes in their Olympic preparations and hopes they won’t continue to be perturbed by the changes.
“I hope they’ll change their opinions that competing in the best possible field with a bit of pressure also is going to be a useful trial exercise before the championships,” he said.
Svein Arne Hansen, meeting director of the Bislett Games for 24 years and now European Athletics president and IAAF Council member, said he would lobby within the Council for a switch back to the old six jumps for all competitors rule.
Hansen, who sat as a member on the IAAF’s Golden League working group from 1997 to 2009, said: “We have to look after the people in the technical events. I can talk as a former meet director. Why should I pay a lot of money to an athlete and then they don’t perform six times?”