New Athletics World Cup adds to a busy weekend of sport this summer
UK Athletics chair Richard Bowker believes that the sport will “more than hold its own” when it comes to attracting attention in an action-packed summer calendar.
British Athletics’ newest event – the two-day Athletics World Cup – will take place in London on the same weekend as the football World Cup final and the Wimbledon tennis finals, while other major meetings over the coming months include the Müller Anniversary Games in the UK capital plus the Müller Grand Prix and British Championships in Birmingham.
Bowker insists that all the signs point to another successful summer for athletics as it follows on from the excitement of the IAAF World Championships and World Para Athletics Championships in London in 2017.
“I think athletics has an incredible ability to cut through,” Bowker told AW. “We saw that last year with the YouGov survey which said that athletics is the most exciting sport to watch as voted for by the British publish. We knew that! But it’s still a fantastic thing. It generates an incredible interest.
“Last summer we saw it with some extraordinary performances and we’ll see it again this year.”
Speaking on the day which saw tickets go on sale for the new Athletics World Cup – at which eight of the world’s top athletics nations will battle for a $2m prize pot and platinum trophy – Bowker had no concerns about the event becoming a victim of the crowded calendar.
“It is a packed summer but it’s a world cup,” he said. “That weekend, sure, the football world cup final is on, but it’s on in the afternoon and we’re on in the evening, so if you love both sports you can watch both. There’s tennis on as well. Isn’t it just a great time to be a British sports fan!
“I know that athletics will more than hold its own. It is the most exciting sport to watch.”
The Athletics World Cup will involve teams from the USA, Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Poland, China, Germany, France, Jamaica and South Africa as they contest all field and track events up to and including the 1500m, with just one male and one female athlete from each nation in each event in a straight-final format.
“We’ve got to make sure the sport remains exciting and relevant and something that people want to participate in around the world. That’s one of the reasons for the Athletics World Cup,” added Bowker, who became chair of UK Athletics in January following the departure of Ed Warner.
“I think we are good at putting on these global events and not only is that the case, athletes from around the world want to come here.”
On attracting the sport’s biggest stars to the new event, which will take place under the London Stadium floodlights on the evenings of Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July, he added: “Athletes want to compete but they want to compete on the biggest stages and they want to compete against the best athletes. This gives them an opportunity to do that and of course on top of that there’s a decent prize fund so that’s quite an attraction and you’ve kind of got the bragging rights of potentially being the first World Cup champion.
“We’re going to set quite a tough qualification for the British team – if you win the British Championships you’re in the team in your event, but that’s a tough ask.
“The feedback already is very much that athletes want to be here.
“It’s a brand new event, it’s innovative. We’re very excited about it and the reaction so far has been really positive.”
» Read more from an interview with Richard Bowker, including comment on the challenges ahead, in the May 10 issue of AW