The head of the world governing body looks forward to the first global indoor event Stateside for 29 years
IAAF president Seb Coe predicted the IAAF World Indoor Championships beginning on Thursday in Portland would be an “exciting chapter in the history of our sport” as top athletes including Ashton Eaton looked ahead to the event in the city’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.
The United States hosts the event for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1987 and Coe welcomed new innovations planned such as medal ceremonies taking place in the square in front of the public.
With it having rained every day in the city since February 25, organisers must have been nervous about staging the press conference outdoors, but their boldness paid off as the likes of world high jump No.1 Gianmarco Tamberi and former world 100m champion Kim Collins sat on stage enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures of 15C on the first dry day here for some time.
“The USA is historically the powerhouse of track and field measured by participation and the number of medals won, yet the United States given its great economic power is still a country where the general perception of track and field is low,” said Coe, who added: “I genuinely believe this will be the reawakening of track and field in this country – the World Indoor Championships, the World Junior Championships in Eugene two years ago and the world outdoor championships in Eugene in 2021.”
Despite the shadow over athletics recently cast by revelations of corruption in the past within the IAAF and the doping-related ban on Russian athletes competing internationally, Coe said positively: “This I believe is for all sorts of reasons an exciting chapter in the history of our sport.”
Regarding the state of athletics at the end of a winter marked by negative headlines, he said: “Our sport is still strong. That’s not to deny that it’s been through some challenging, dark days – you’d be surprised if I concluded anything else than that. But the ticket sales here have been very, very strong. Our indoor programmes throughout the winter have been very strong. The indoor and cross-country meetings have been very well supported. So the sport is still strong.”
Portland-born Eaton will be among the top drawers at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend as a twice world indoor heptathlon champion, Olympic decathlon champion and world record-holder in both disciplines.
Eaton admitted a special affinity for indoor events, adding: “From my very first indoor competition, I’ve kind of liked indoor a little bit more than outdoor… The indoors is a lot easier. There’s no 400m, 1500m. I have an energy for days in this event and it suits my body type, speed and power. And I love the atmosphere.”
Eaton, who set the world heptathlon record when he won the global title in Istanbul in 2012, was disappointed with his showing at last weekend’s US trials at the same venue – a 6.80 in the 60m and 7.60m in the long jump, a meeting also marked by a pole vault crossbar landing on his head.
Among the innovations at the championships, at the 7000-seater stadium which features a green track, is holding both pole vault competitions as a standalone session on the opening evening.
» Find an online preview for the IAAF World Indoor Championships here, while the March 17 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine, on sale in shops now or available digitally here, includes a preview plus global indoor rankings