On Sunday evening, the IAAF announced a new Olympic qualification system that has runners up in arms. Following that announcement, they continued their roll-out of changes for 2020 by announcing that starting next year, the Diamond League will no longer include the 5,000m race on the circuit.
The Diamond League didn’t ever directly address eliminating the 5,000m, but rather stated that going forward the 3,000m would be the longest event. The decision is the result of an aim to have a faster-paced broadcast schedule.
Steve Magness is an author and running coach, he examined previous year’s Diamond League broadcast schedule and suggested that it wasn’t the distance events impeding its pace, but rather the analysis and filler content. He tweeted, “In a 45 minutes of broadcast (excluding commercials) we saw: 17:41 of actual athletes competing (including all replays) and 27:19 of talking heads, introductions, “analysis”. In summary: Our primary problem is NOT distance races taking too long…”
For those making the argument that distance races take too much time for a broadcast, consider the following facts taken from a few Diamond League broadcasts
— Steve Magness (@stevemagness) March 13, 2019
Other professionals have posted on social media expressing their concerns, with Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo even suggesting that the IAAF could be killing distance running on the track.
On top of Chelimo’s statement, American half-marathon record holder Molly Huddle, World Championship medallist Kara Goucher and Canadian Olympian Gabriela DeBues-Stafford are just a handful of the many athletes who have spoken out about the issue.
Not a fan of dropping the 5000 from @Diamond_League . If @iaaforg won’t convey it’s interest to public, why not cut from TV only. It remains Championship event so 5/10,000m athletes will need to race it (ranking points etc) #vivela5k https://t.co/KvWXOmmDBX
— Molly Huddle (@MollyHuddle) March 11, 2019
Also 4 events are getting cut from the diamond league?! I'm disappointed in this decision for track and field. Hard to grow a fan base for events that won't be in the DL circuit. Popularity for those events will probably die down.. https://t.co/I95qSUVqRC
— Gabriela DeBues-Stafford (@gstafford13) March 11, 2019
Athletics Kenya has also taken to a formal protest of the upcoming change. Their president Jackson Tuwei told The Daily Nation on Wednesday, “Long distance races on track is where Africa’s strength is and we have been encouraging and getting more athletes to run 5,000m and 10,000m races.” With the removal of the 5,000m, many distance specialists could be forced off the track and onto the road.
Canadian indoor 5,000m record holder Gabriela DeBues-Stafford worries about the future of distance running as a result of the event cut. “If the IAAF truly wants to grow the sport, the route to doing that is not by cutting events out of the Diamond League. That’s literally the opposite of growing the sport. Distance races are not boring to watch, but you need to knowledgeable commentators to play up rivalries and create tension and drama.” Stafford also points out that most recreational runners participate in 5 and 10Ks, so the distance should be relatable to them, but few rec runners know what the Diamond League is. She wishes that the IAAF would tap into that market instead of abandoning it entirely.