Some time next Tuesday in Monaco, we’ll find out whether Eugene, Oregon, will become the first city in the United States ever to host the IAAF Track and Field World Championships. Track Town USA has converted me into a lover of the sport, and being able to watch the world’s greatest compete at Oregon’s storied Hayward Field would make me very, very happy.
True, Eugenians get to see many of the world’s greatest compete every year at the Prefontaine Classic. But the World Championships would be like several entire days worth of Pre Classics, and not just with some of the world’s greatest competing, but with all of them. Usain Bolt has never run at Hayward. Legendary 800 world-record holder David Rudisha hadn’t run at Hayward until last year, and he was clearly still recovering from injury. The greatest talent in the world would all be looking to peak at the same time, and that level of competition would be something to behold.
In Barcelona, Spain, and Doha, Qatar, Eugene has stiff competition. Both cities are much larger than Eugene, with much more developed hotel and stadium infrastructure. But Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated recently made a compelling case for why Eugene should get the bid. The whole piece is worth your while, but here’s a preview:
Not to drink too deeply of the TrackTown elixir here, but I’m willing to argue that when it comes to track and field, there is no place in the world quite like Eugene. You want to argue Oslo or Zurich, places that host a wonderful one-day-a-year track meet? Sorry. As Lananna likes to say, “We’re twenty-four, seven, three-sixty-five.’’ Eugene is so track-centric that it’s a little odd, in a cute sort of way. But what’s indisputable is that for four decades—with a few highs and lows—if somebody has put a major track and field competition in Hayward Field, the stands have been largely filled with passionate, knowledgeable fans. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials were positively electric. Those events were held in a stadium expanded with temporary seating to a capacity just north of 25,000. Whether Eugene can deliver a capacity crowd of 32,000 every day for nine days for the world championships is a fair question. I wouldn’t bet against it.