The future of track and field?Usain Bolt hanging out of the side of a Rolls Royce may look a little odd to the athletics purist but last week’s Competitive Edge Athletic Allstars event, which took place in Australia, offered an intriguing glimpse into the future of our sport.
Now, here at spikesmag.com we’ve been banging the drum for some time on having cooler, more attractive meets and we believe the Sydney event ticked all the boxes.
Event organiser Hayden Knowles said: “The concept was to raise the profile of athletes in Australia, to make athletics attractive, and to inspire and entertain people to show athletes that they are respected and I think it worked.”
Spikesmag.com gives six good reasons why we fully support the event and, more importantly, the concept.
Good use of gimmicks
It was daring and bold, but it worked. The athletes made a grand entrance via a red carpet and Bolt entered the arena in a $1.2m (AUS) Rolls Royce. The Jamaican superstar, although not competing seriously at the meeting because of injury, was the key promotional tool and organisers made the most of his larger than life personality He was welcomed by Australia’s best dance group Justice Crew – Bolt joined in the dancing and the crowd loved it. When New Zealand discus thrower Beatrice Faumuina entered the stadium a New Zealand haka – Maori dance – was performed. A men’s mile was organised with not one, but two race callers one of whom was hanging out of a stretched pink hummer that followed athletes around the track.
“You could not take your eyes off the race and we couldn’t have scripted it better than when the winner, Jeremy Roff, crossed the finish line in under four minutes, said Knowles. “The four-minute barrier is still one people understand and they now all know who Jeremy Roff is and I guarantee they will talk about the pink hummer.”
Connection between athletics and other sports
In the age of celebrity it is important athletics makes as many links with a wide cross section personalities and the meeting delivered this to perfection. Rugby league is, arguably, the most high profile sport in Australia certainly in Sydney and with the likes of top league stars such as Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne racing against stars from the world of rugby union and soccer in a 100m race the TV cameras were attracted to the event. Another leading rugby league talent Jamal Idris was a former discus thrower as a youngster and he demonstrated his skills in the discus circle. Meanwhile, the post-race ball was attended by the likes of cricket star Brett Lee and former world boxing champion Danny Green.
Showcase stars of the future.
The meeting was not all about the established names. Australia’s World Youth Olympics 110m hurdles champion Nicholas Hough is one of the country’s rising stars and the 16-year-old ran 10.6 in the 100m race moments before the race between the football codes. As Knowles said: “The whole town now knows his name and by comparing his times with footballers fans now respect just how good he is and now know him as a future star.”
It was vitally important the fans were entertained and Knowles engaged the services of a talented producer with a background in theatre. His brief was to direct the night like a night at the theatre and Knowles describes his role as “awesome.”
“Kids and adults danced in the crowds,” he added. “They were so engaged in the meeting because they appreciated we were going out to entertain them. I am told my three kids never stopped dancing in the crowd and they now know who Usain Bolt is. They now keep asking to race each other!”
Head to heads
Head to head competition is what the sport thrives on and many events were pared down to the bare bones to highlight this. The women’s discus was hailed as the battle of the champions, as Australia’s world gold medallist Dani Samuels took on the Olympic champion Stephanie Brown Trafton of the US and New Zealand’s former world gold medallist Beatrice Faumuina. The women’s high jump was a straight battle between Australia’s world youth silver medallist Amy Pejkovic and Claire Mallett.
Use a legend
The world’s most high profile athlete, Usain Bolt, was used to promote the event and his skills were used to perfection
“Usain will be remembered for joining my company on my mission to “inspire and entertain,” added Knowles. “Athletic Allstars is now as much his as mine. I worked out with him and his manager, Norman Peart, to work on things that had never been done before and believe me he owned it, he owned the press, he owned the whole city and owns this meet now and we look forward to working together in the future. I have no doubt he has millions of new fans. The whole country loved him.”
Read part two of our review of the Competitive Edge AllStars meeting tomorrow at spikesmag.com when we speak to the winner of the football codes 100m challenge; Wallabies flying winger Lachie Turner.