The World Indoor Championships are mad popular in Europe. This year a record 159 countries have entered athletes in the track meet held in Valencia, Spain from March 7 – 9. With the Olympics taking place in Beijing later this year, athletes have an extra incentive to perform well at the meet. The event is sure to be a spectacular affair.
This is the final indoor meet of the year before runners across the globe begin the outdoor season focusing on Beijing. The World Indoors is sold out which is a big boost to a meet that is already wildly popular.
Valencia, Spain certainly is a great host city with plenty to offer sports fans - it provided the home port for last year’s America’s Cup sailing competition and is set to do so again in 2009. The first Formula One Grand Prix on the city streets will take place later this year.
In total, the world’s greatest indoor meet will offer $2.5 million in prize money, equally shared with both male and female athletes. It’s important to point out that track & field was one of the first sports to pay women equally more than twenty years ago – a feat that Wimbledon just achieved last year in 2007.
Individual and relay events earn $40,000 for the winners, $20,000 for second place, $10,000 for third and goes down to $4,000 for 6th. Anyone who sets a world-record gets an additional $50,000 bonus, on top of their prize earnings from winning their race.
Keep in mind that some athletes run multiple events, such as an individual race and a relay or two individual races. Elite runners that win two events will return home with $80,000 for two days of running.
Not bad, but the international governing body which hosts the meet needs to increase the total prize money to $4 million. For example, the 2007 U.S. Open Wheelchair Tennis had a record total pot of $75,000, and the United States Golf Association (USGA) U.S Open had a staggering purse of $7 million.
The sport has a responsibility to the athletes. Larger purses might persuade international stars such as Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix, and Asafa Powell to run indoor track—which many stars are not doing now.
More star athletes translate into better television ratings for tour events. Better ratings would mean more money sponsorships that can be gained for future events.
Track is definitely work in progress, however with four world indoor records having already fallen this winter season, it’s evident that the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships will be one of the most hotly contested global competitions in recent years.
By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist