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Continental Cup: the unknown IAAF track meet

With a payday rivaling that of the Diamond League, why is the Continental Cup relatively unknown?

Canadian track championships
Canadian Track Championships
Photo: Michael Doyle.


The IAAF Continental Cup, which kicks off September 8th in Ostrava, Czech Republic, is a quadrennial competition among four continents with prize money nearly as big as the Diamond League. But despite huge prize money and historically competitive teams, the Continental Cup is relatively unknown to broader audiences. 

On the second week of September, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe and Africa will all compete for nearly $3 million USD and the coveted Continental Cup. 



This prize money breaks down like this: first place $30,000, second place $15,000, third place $10,000, fourth place $7,000, fifth place $5,000, sixth place $3,000, seventh place $2,000, and eighth place $1,000. All prizes are awarded in USD. Between the 34 individual events, that’s nearly $2.5 million in prize money. The relays contribute an additional $204,000 USD to the pot. This means that every competitor gets a payday, as each region is only able to send two athletes per event. 

For even more perspective, the Diamond League final shells out $100,000 USD total per event, whereas the Continental Cup gives $73,000 USD per event. Those two figures aren’t so different, but the Diamond League is vastly better known. 

The meet has been happening since 1977 under the name, “The World Cup in Athletics” but was rebranded in 2010 as the Continental Cup.

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The cup also incorporates non-traditional track regulations into their events. For example, there is a joker clause where team captains can place the joker card on one male and one female athlete each day. If the selected athlete wins their event, the team gains double the number of points for that athlete’s performance. 



Elimination races will be run in the both the 3,000m and 3,000m steeplechase events. The IAAF guidelines state that “all eight competitors run the first 1400 metres (three and half laps) together. After that, the last runner through each lap will be eliminated. As a result, only four runners will reach the last lap.” Even if a runner is eliminated, they can score points based on which lap they were eliminated on. 


Nate Brannen
Photo: Michael Doyle


A meet like the Continental Cup could be exactly what the sport of track and field needs. Their fun approach to competition is refreshingly different than some of the international championships spectators are used to seeing. “I believe IAAF Continental Cup in this new form will meet expectations and will be a magnificent spectacle for all,” said Varhanik, president of the Czech Athletic Federation. “We are delighted to be part of the ongoing changes in athletics and also to see that the IAAF agreed on some of our suggested competition rules changes.”

Team selections are set to be announced later this week.