The International Association of Athletics Federations holds its premier event, the World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, in odd-numbered years. Last year the championships were in Moscow. Next year, they’re in Beijing. In 2017, they’ll be in London. It may seem audacious for Eugene to place itself in such company. But when an IAAF evaluation commission visits Eugene this weekend on its tour of cities that have submitted bids to host the 2019 championships, it should be clear that no city of any size is a more natural home to the sport of track and field.
Competing with Eugene are Barcelona and Doha. Barcelona, the 10th-most-visited city in the world, has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and was host of the 1992 Olympics. Doha, the booming capital of Qatar, is a hub for travelers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and will host the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s World Cup in 2022.
Eugene has Hayward Field.
The IAAF knows the value of that advantage, having chosen Eugene as the site of its successful World Junior Championships this year. Eugene showed itself able to meet the formidable logistical challenges that come with staging a big track and field competition.
Logistical capabilities, however, are easy to find — Barcelona and Doha have plenty of hotel rooms and good airline connections. But Eugene, as the IAAF learned this year, can do more than accommodate athletes, coaches and spectators. Eugene has something unique: It’s a place where track and field competitors are understood, appreciated and inspired to great performances.
The evaluation committee will be running through a long checklist of criteria, examining each city’s accommodations, transportation, media operations, broadcasting facilities, medical care, anti-doping precautions, ticketing, security, promotional abilities and preparations for dealing with visas and work permits, among others. TrackTown USA, the organization that is making Eugene’s bid, can meet the IAAF’s requirements in each of those areas, though the competition is tough — when it comes to transportation, Barcelona has a subway, and when it comes to broadcasting, Doha has al-Jazeera.
But the committee will also evaluate each city’s “vision and general concept” for the championships, and its “legacy” in track and field. It is in these categories that Doha and Barcelona have reason to worry about measuring up to Eugene. For them, the world outdoor championships would be just another event on a calendar that is full of them. In Eugene, the championships would build upon a decades-long legacy in track and field, a legacy that has enriched the sport and promoted its development worldwide.