The world’s largest one-day meetings will undergo a huge reorganization next year. Currently, the top professional circuit is the Golden League, a six meeting series offering winners of certain events at all meetings a share of a $1,000,000 jackpot. The Golden League will be disbanded next season and replaced with the Diamond League, a larger, more international circuit of 14 meetings in Europe, America and Asia. Each meeting will have prize money of $416,000 and all 32 disciplines will have the same prize money. In addition, points can be accumulated at each meeting throughout the season. The athlete with the most points at the end of the series will be awarded a 4 carat diamond (worth approximately $80,000).
This new plan offers great global exposure for our sport and more money making opportunities for elite athletes. However, the new league will include every event except one: the hammer throw. The IAAF has cited “infrastructure reasons” as the explanation for why the hammer throw is excluded. The IAAF and its President Lamine Diack ensured “that a Hammer Throw challenge will be created.” However, a recent e-mail exchange with IAAF spokeswoman Anne-Marie Garrigan indicated that a seperate hammer throw series will not be created. Instead, the hammer throw will be included in a second level of international meetings that will replace the current IAAF Grand Prix circuit. Garrigan said, “During its last meeting in August 2009, the IAAF Council approved, in principle, the regulations for this new circuit which would include the Hammer Throw in its competition programme.” A separate jackpot may still be created for the hammer throw, but no one will know for sure until details are released this Autumn.
This exclusion of the hammer throw from the Diamond League will harm the sport’s future. First, it perpetuates the myth that the hammer throw cannot be staged as part of a normal competition. Officials cite “infrastructure reasons” such as facilities and safety as the main reason for this. Yet this is hard to believe when every major championship manages to hold the hammer throw concurrently with other events without any issues. The only major injury at a high level meet in recent years was not from the hammer, but from the javelin, an event that is often included in the Golden League. Granted, facilities like Monaco (built on top of a parking structure) may have valid infrastructure concerns, but others like Doha, Eugene, and New York have all hosted the hammer throw in recent years without any problems.
Second, and most importantly, the exclusion of the hammer throw marginalizes the event. The new plans may actually allow hammer throwers to earn more next season (details are forthcoming about the structure of the series). In the long run, however, it decreases the exposure of the sport and can only hurt athletes in their attempts to gain publicity and sponsors. Under the current Golden League format, meet directors can add non-jackpot events at their discretion. However, the Diamond League will not offer directors such discretion. According to Garrigan, “none of the meetings part of the league shall stage this event.” Among other consequences, this likely means no more international hammer competitions at meets like the Pre Classic, America’s top track and field competition.
We can only wait and see how things play out as more details are released and the league matures over the coming years. The IAAF World Athletics Final similarly marginalized the hammer throw for its first three years. Rather than being held in Monaco with the rest of the competition, the hammer was held a week earlier in Hungary. Since 2006, however, the hammer throw has once again become part of the main competition. I hope a similar change takes place with the Diamond League or an alternate plan is adopted before the league even begins.