On Saturday, Oct. 12, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran the world’s fastest marathon at 1:59:40. Now Eugene will attempt to break the record for smallest city to host an international sports championship event.
Still jetlagged from the 2019 Track and Field Championships in Doha, Qatar, athletes attended an event at the University of Oregon on Thursday, Oct. 10, to rally enthusiasm for the championships’ first-ever hosting on U.S. soil.
Gov. Kate Brown arrived in town after attending the sparsely attended championships in Qatar, a trip paid for by her office and with lodging paid by Oregon21 — the group that’s in charge of hosting the track and field event in Eugene.
Because 2021 is the first time the U.S. hosts the world championships, Brown’s spokesperson Kate Kondayen tells Eugene Weekly that Oregon sent a contingent to understand the logistics of hosting such an event.
“There is significant marketing and tourism value for the state and Oregon businesses,” Kondayen says, “and the trip was planned to both take advantage of opportunities to let people know that the next games are in Oregon as well to understand how to maximize the event economically for the state.”
The human rights organization Amnesty International has criticized Qatar for human rights violations, as it says migrant construction workers were exploited, and many died, in the process of preparing for hosting athletic events.
Brown’s office says funds committed so far to Oregon21 have come from a grant allocated for use in economic development and tourism from the Oregon Tourism Commission. That’s $20 million pledged, but Brown told the International Athletic Associations Federation in an April letter that she would find another $20 million, according to The Oregonian.
Brown says she’s confident legislators will find the extra money.
State Sen. James Manning, who was also at the Oct. 10 event, tells EW he is supportive of increasing the state’s support for the 2021 Track and Field Championships.
Manning is a member of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, which keeps an eye on state money expenditures, among other tasks.
He says he hasn’t spoken with the governor yet about the funding, but he wants to ensure taxpayer money is used wisely, as well as making sure there’s clear language to avoid a court challenge.
Finding more money for the championships is still in early works, and the 90 lawmakers in the state Legislature will have to come together to agree on a sum, he adds.
“I think it’s going to benefit the entire state of Oregon,” Manning says, adding that whatever amount the state contributes will see a return that will meet or exceed its investment.
Brown says the world championships will allow visitors to explore Oregon and that she could see enterprises emerging like tours of 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist Dick Fosbury’s hometown, Medford.
Manning says as financial numbers emerge for the championship event, the UO will present legislators with the amount of assistance needed. As legislators learn more about what’s needed, then they’ll find ways to raise the revenue for 2021 Track and Field Championships.
He adds that all Oregonians will be informed of the process.
Vin Lananna, who led Eugene’s successful bid to host the 2021 World Athletics Championships, left the UO in September for a job at the University of Virginia. Lananna had been placed on administrative leave as the U.S. Department of Justice investigates the bidding.
Manning says he’s not concerned that the investigation could jeopardize the event’s coming to Eugene.
Some of the criticism of Qatar’s hosting the 2019 world championships was a lack of attendance.
The small crowd size was a bit disappointing for a major championship event, says Wil London, a 2019 World Champion and current world record holder in the mixed gender 4×400 meter relay who was at the Oct. 10 event. But he’s positive that people will show up to Hayward Field.
“I’ve been to a national meet here that had more numbers than the first couple days at Qatar,” he says.
London will compete at a new Hayward Field, but he says he’s not mourning the loss of the historic stadium where he once ran.
“The citizens and the people who’ve come to meets for 30, 40 years, are probably the ones who are more disappointed,” he says. “But I feel that now that they’ll have a championships here, that’ll change their mind.”