Track and field is to Europeans as hockey is to Canadians–they love it. On a Wednesday night, in a sleepy Belgian city, you can find thousands of people watching track, drinking, and enjoying themselves.
This year is known as a down year in track and field, and without any major championships on the horizon, interest in track can dwindle.
That being said, European meet directors have managed to cultivate a following that can withstand a slower year on the track. Fans across the pond appear to be invested beyond the major championships. They seem to just enjoy watching track and field.
Here’s how European countries have created phenomenal track and field meets:
European track and field facilities are built for track. Many North American tracks are football or soccer fields encompassed by a track. In terms of space and cost, this makes sense, but for viewer experience, a proper track facility makes a huge difference.
In a facility designed to host a track meet, every event happens in front of you. This makes for a more attention-grabbing and interesting event.
In a specialized facility, the stands are also closer to the action. Instead of having one massive grandstand, seating is typically closer to the track and surrounding the entire oval.
Races happen non-stop. Many of the meets are twilight meets with a tight schedule. All athletes must be checked in 15 to 20 minutes prior to their event, and are walked onto the track during the race that precedes their race. As soon as runners cross the line, the next group is set to run. No big time gaps between events, no warmups on the track, just racing.
Music is extremely loud, nearly continuous and upbeat. The only time the music stops is when the gun goes.
The alcohol and food
Drinks are flowing. Beer is easily accessible and very cheap. There are food trucks as far as they eye can see. Good beverages and food are keys elements of successful sporting events.
Entry to a track meet isn’t free, but it’s cheap. Not every meet is the same, but roughly $8 CAD should cover it.