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Eugene Awarded 2021 World Championships in surprise IAAF vote
By Steve Ritchie - Special to the Statesman Journal
April 16, 2015

University of Oregon, Hayward Field entrance

EUGENE - The IAAF World Track and Field Championships will be coming to Eugene after all, just two years later than organizers originally hoped to host it.

In a stunning move at their meeting in Beijing, China yesterday, the IAAF Council overwhelmingly voted to award the 2021 World Championships to the United States for the first time since the championships were established in 1983. The event, which has been described as "the crown jewel of track and field," will be hosted at Historic Hayward Field by USA Track & Field, the City of Eugene, and TrackTown USA, the local organizing committee.

Just five months ago, TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna and USATF CEO Max Siegel left the IAAF meeting in Monaco in a state of utter disappointment after losing the bid for the 2019 World Championships to Doha, Qatar by just three votes. However, Lananna and Siegel regrouped, and soon after apparently began a quiet and surprisingly effective effort to woo the IAAF Council into awarding the 2021 championships to Eugene.

Hayward Field

This time around there were no other competing bids for the biennial championships, and the "special vote" was strongly in the favor of the U.S. and Eugene.

“We are humbled by the bold leadership shown by the IAAF Council,” TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna said in a TrackTownUSA release on Thursday. “We are thrilled to be able to welcome the world in 2021. We want to thank the IAAF for their decision, and we also want to thank the people of Oregon for their unwavering support. In hosting this meet at historic Hayward Field, on the beautiful University of Oregon campus, we believe we can ignite a spark that will leave a lasting legacy for track and field for generations to come.”

While the IAAF's unexpected move drew immediate criticism from European track and field officials, who said Gothenburg, Sweden had been preparing a 2021 bid, the decision is a huge boost for a sport that has decreased in stature in the U.S. Lananna believes bringing the championships to Eugene and Oregon, where the sport retains popularity, is a game-changer for track's visibility in the U.S. and around the world.

"I think you put this in Eugene, Oregon, a town that has the heart and soul of track and field in the United States — the repercussions of this decision will signal a new era for the sport," Lananna said in a telephone call after the vote.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown was also enthusiastic about the news.  In a release, Brown said, “This is spectacular news for Oregon, and a tribute to the University of Oregon’s reputation for excellence in track and field."

Although the state is not listed as an official host, both former Gov. Kitzhaber and Gov. Brown actively supported the quest to bring the world to Eugene. In November 2014 then Secretary of State Brown was one of the participants who helped present the TrackTown bid.

Winning the 2021 championships means big changes are in store for Hayward Field. While the historic venue has been the site of five previous Olympic Trials, as well as numerous U.S. and NCAA championship meets, it will have to be enlarged and improved to host the worlds.

Historic Hayward Field

Created in 1919 primarily for football, Hayward has a current capacity of 10,500. This was increased to approximately 22,500 for the 2012 Olympic Trials by adding temporary seating. The IAAF specifications for the world championships call for a minimum seating capacity of 30,000, so look for a large increase in permanent seating at Hayward with some additional temporary seats that could take the seating capacity to as high as 32,000.

Lananna has suggested that the Hayward renovation could start as soon as 2016, following the U.S. Olympic Trials, which are scheduled for early July next year. No specifics have been provided, but expect the West Grandstand to be greatly expanded or replaced altogether by another structure. Hayward's East Grandstand, which dates back nearly 100 years, might be too historically significant to renovate or replace.

In any case, there should be no problem filling the seats for the nine-day world meet. Attendance for the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene averaged about 21,600, and was close to capacity most days despite some very wet June weather. Unlike recent world championship meets in Moscow and Daegu, South Korea, don't expect to see many empty seats.

TrackTownUSA and the University of Oregon will face some major logistic and infrastructure issues in staging a meet of this magnitude, but both organizations have proved to be adept in the past. Certainly they addressed these issues to the satisfaction of the IAAF, and detailed planning can now begin in earnest for 2021.

One challenge will be accommodating 2,000+ members of the media who will be covering the meet. Current media seating and facilities at Hayward are quite limited, and will need to be significantly improved.

Hotel rooms were thought by many observers to be another major problem in having Eugene host the meet. Accommodations will have to be provided for more than 2,000 athletes, as well as coaches, medical and athlete support personnel, media and federation officials from over 200 countries. TrackTown officials have stated in the past that they have a viable housing plan, citing University dorms, sizeable new student apartments, and expansion of existing hotel and motel options.

Transportation and parking worked well, for the most part, during previous Olympic Trials. Park and ride from Autzen Stadium, and increased bus transportation throughout Eugene will likely be utilized to get people to and from Hayward.


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