It looks as though Usain Bolt has done more than just break another world record last weekend. The Jamaican sprinter’s world record-shattering performance over 150 meters in Manchester, England, has sparked a bit of a debate over the use of road races to promote the sport. In a post for his blog for the Guardian website, former 1500-meter world champion Steve Cram wrote that Bolt has paved a new way to promote the sport of athletics. Cram’s view is that bringing the race to the streets gave the public the chance to see a superstar up-close and personal, and allowed the causual fan, who would not sit through a long track meet, the opportunity to see Bolt in action. Bringing athletics to the public, rather than hoping they will come to it, seems to be a shot in the right direction. One can only look at the meager turnout at the recent adidas Track Classic in Los Angeles to prove the sport needs some excitment injected into it.
Opposition to Cram’s viewpoint came swiftly down from IAAF President Lamine Diack. Diack was to warn Bolt that the sport belongs on the track and that these street races are only for promotional puposes. It seems as though the IAAF has gone on the defensive, hoping that people don’t start looking at the sport as a traveling circus that will be in a town near you to entertain. It is easy to understand Diack’s point of view, as he is in the business of promoting his Golden League series, as well as World Championships, which clearly don’t take place on the roads.