5 November 2007
(Ian Hodge highlights how UK Athletics structure the UK Televised Event series for the benefit of home grown talent - as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine).
The meetings that make up the televised Athletics series are an essential competitive stepping stone for any British athlete in this country. The mixture of national championships, International matches and Grand Prix style fixtures provide the opportunity for our athletes to sample high level national and world class opposition, a prerequisite to success in major championships.
The two national championship/trials events are the only occasions in the calendar when all of our elite meet and are of huge importance when one considers that the trials play a key part in selecting a team for major championships.
Back in fifties and sixties International Matches were the backbone of every international season but have now all but died out. And yet selection for the few matches that remain is an endorsement that an athlete is considered the best in the country.
The Grand Prix events have the reputation for being crammed with many of the world’s biggest names with the British athletes having to fight their way onto the start list. However, whilst these meetings do need to attract the world's elite to maintain the sports presence in an ever-competitive market place it is also essential that Britain’s best are present too and additionally as many of the future generation as possible for whom it maybe a first step on the competitive ladder to a place on the major championship podium.
The first decisions to make when organising a Grand Prix meeting is to determine which athletes you want to attract and that in turn has a substantial baring over the events that will fill the timetable. To make the meeting attractive for the crowd and the TV viewers you must include athletes who people actually know—currently not enough fit into that category these days—but you cannot have the same faces and same events at each meeting so the key is to select sufficient “marquee” names and then form events around them.
Events then form a mixture of “head to heads” with one big name opposing another - and very occasionally a genuine attack on a world record. “The remainder of the field is carefully planned so that even if a British athlete is not yet able to compete with the world leader who might be appearing, there will be good quality opposition within the same field that can often lead to a strong performance.
Some of the events will be ones that Britain has great strength in depth and it is not uncommon for a women’s 800m to include four or five from the “home team” as it were. On such occasions the event can also take on the mantle of being a selection race for the upcoming major championship. We don’t always have a British competitor capable of competing at the front of the field in every discipline, but even then it becomes all the more essential to field a couple of home grown athletes who may still benefit from the quality line up and the experience of attending a high profile Grand Prix event.
In addition to the Grand Prix style events there are others that may wholly showcase British athletes, age group races for the stars of 2012, the ever-popular relays and also elite Disability events.
In short, there is a wide variety of differing facets of the sport that can be crammed into three hours to make up the shop window of our sport.