Home 2028 Olympic Games LANE ONE: By our count, Hayward Field will seat less than 17,000...

LANE ONE: By our count, Hayward Field will seat less than 17,000 for 2022 World Championships, and that may be just fine

The new Hayward Field, with the giant, north-end scoreboard (Photo: University of Oregon)

Plus: Commonwealth Games: India whines over sports it does well in not included on 2026 program = Athletics: Sadness for the suicide of Wisconsin distance runner Shulze = Gymnastics: USA Gymnastics settlement plan declared effective = Skating: ISU throws out Russian and Belarusian athletes and venues, but not federations from forthcoming Congress = Weightlifting: IWF selects Colombia to take over 2022 Worlds = SCOREBOARD/Athletics: Christie and Melville add to career title totals at USATF 20 km Walk Champs; Stevens gets American Record in women’s 35 km Walk = Football: U.S. women win 13-0 in CONCACAF U-17s ●

The pre-opening publicity materials issued in March 2021 for the renovated Hayward Field at the University of Oregon stated that the track & field facility’s capacity would be “12,650 permanent seats expandable to nearly 25,000.”

It probably wasn’t true then, but it certainly isn’t true now. And that might be just as well.

The 2022 World Athletics Championships will be held at Hayward Field, as will be the Pac-12 Championships, Prefontaine Classic, NCAA Championships and USA Track & Field Championships. In today’s mostly-uninspired market for track & field – this week’s Penn Relays excepted – only the World Championships need any more seating than the facility’s permanent stands and promises of up to 30,000 seats were made at varying times.

But that was before the massive Visual Experience Board was installed this spring, spanning 160 feet in length by 60 feet high and incorporating 5,080 sq.ft. of video screen. There went several thousand of those extra seats.

So how many seats will there be for the Worlds? Glad you asked, because TheSportsExaminer made a count. Right from the Worlds ticket-sales screens.

Let’s start by accepting the 12,650 permanent seating total as accurate; the facility appears to be of about that size. The question is how much is being added on for the Worlds; by examining the ticket-sales site, we saw and counted:

● The standard seating configuration at the new Hayward has 60 sections, with 33 on the 100 level (lower tier) and 27 on the upper (200) tier.

● For the 2022 Worlds, lower-tier seating was added as sections 100-101-102-111-137, adding 749 seats.

● New upper-tier seating was added as sections 232-233-234-238-239-240-241 on either side of the new scoreboard, adding 2,130 seats. That’s 2,879 seats in new sections.

● Existing sections were built up along the north end, in front of the new scoreboard, in sections 129-136, adding 1,692 seats to the regular inventory.

● Add it up, and there are 4,571 new seats added for a total seating capacity of 17,221. By our count, that’s the expanded Hayward Field capacity for the 2022 Worlds.

At least 2,430 seats were lost to the new scoreboard and maybe more, that could have pushed the Worlds capacity to a believable 20,000. At an average of $75 each across 10 days, that’s at least $1.82 million in lost ticket sales, not to mention concessions and souvenirs. That hurts.

Let’s note that the 17,221 seating capacity is not how many tickets are available for each session. Before any ticket sales began, seven prime sections were marked as unavailable for public sale, nos. 117-118-119-120 and 218-219-220. These are on the finish line, moving into the first turn.

These will be used for news media (press, radio and television), officials, sponsors and athletes, all necessary for the event, but who are either not buying tickets at all (media, officials, athletes) or have already paid otherwise (sponsors). The tables for press and announce positions for television will remove an average of roughly two seats for every person who actually sits down, eliminating from 500-1,000 seats (or more) in the process.

Those seven sections represent – by our count – 2,704 seats, which brings the total for the public (including the high-priced hospitality seats) down to 14,517 available for sale.

How does this compare to the old Hayward? A lot smaller. The 2008 Trials averaged 20,890 attendees per day (167,123 total), the 2012 Trials drew 173,153 for eight days, an average of 21,644, and the 2016 Trials was the biggest of all.

That event had an average attendance of 22,122 over eight days of competition, with a high of 22,944 on the final day of 10 June, which was apparently a Hayward Field record. It likely will be forever.

Now, is the 2022 actual capacity of around 16,000 per session a humiliatingly small total for the first Worlds in the U.S., the most powerful track & field nation in the world?

If you look over the history of the IAAF Worlds, which began in 1983, yes. The first Worlds, in Helsinki (FIN), averaged 48,300 for the seven evening sessions. The 1987 follow-up in Rome averaged 64,750 each day. As late as 2017, the London Worlds averaged 53,404 for each of the 10 evening sessions. The smallest listed capacity was 42,000 for the 1995 Worlds in Goteborg (SWE).

But if you consider more recent events, no.

The 2019 Worlds in Doha was a new low, with a late date, hot weather and political turmoil among the Gulf states that isolated Qatar and eliminated any tourism. The Khalifa International Stadium was downsized to 21,000 – from its usual 48,000 – and drew 13,288 on the first night and it went down from there, but filled up for the last weekend thanks to the distribution of a lot of free tickets.

Now comes Eugene and the new Hayward Field, which will be full and very loud, with an intimate feeling and lots of excitement on the track. In many ways, having about 16,000 people there is about right.

There’s no parking anywhere close, even for buses. There’s not enough accommodations to take care of the people already coming, who will be spread about from Portland (110 miles to the north) to Roseburg, 71 miles to the south, and beyond. What would you expect from the no. 117 media market in the U.S.?

If there really were 30,000 seats at Hayward for the Worlds, how much worse would it be for those attending? A lot worse.

So this is where we are in track & field in the U.S. in 2022, and where World Athletics sits as well. But not for long. The 2023 Worlds will be held at the under-construction National Athletics Centre in Budapest, with a permanent capacity of 14,000, but planned to hold 36,000 for the Championships in one of the historic capitals of Europe. It can handle the guest load.

And there is Tokyo, with its beautiful new National Stadium, which sat empty for the Olympic Games last year, but which is being offered for the 2025 Worlds and seats 68,000. World Athletics might go to Nairobi instead, which has the 60,000-seat Kasarani Stadium available.

By then, Eugene will – hopefully – be a pleasant memory of great performances, lively crowds and not too much inconvenience for those spectators who are there. And American track fans will be looking forward to the third Olympic Games to be held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2028.

Bobby McFerrin was right. Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Rich Perelman
Editor

≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

● XXIII Commonwealth Games: Victoria 2026 ● The official award of the 2026 Games to Victoria was on 12 April and it took only 11 days for the Indian Olympic Association to file its protest that its favored sports of archery, shooting and wrestling are not on the program.

IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta wrote to the Commonwealth Games Foundation (CGF) to complain:

“It is really shocking for CGA India to know that these three very popular sports in sporting world were ignored by the CGF. The CGA India strongly recommend for inclusion of shooting, wrestling and archery as part of 2026 CWG sports programme.

“We request to include our request in the agenda of the next CGF General Assembly so that it can be discussed and take favourable decisions by the House.

This isn’t new. India protested long and loud after archery and shooting – sports in which it wins a lot of medals – were not included in the Birmingham 2022 program and the issue was not resolved until it was agreed that India would host separate Commonwealth Games competitions in these sports itself. Scheduled for January 2022, the events were not held due to Covid-19 fears and will not be held in Birmingham.

Observed: India is in a tighter spot here because there was very little interest in hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games until Victoria came along; India did not bid. Further, under pressure to make the Commonwealth Games more attractive, only swimming and track & field were required sports and the remainder of the program was up to the bidders.

The IOA could threaten another boycott, but after whiffing on the archery and shooting event to be held this past January, the CGF – and the Victoria organizers – might well call their bluff.

● Athletics ● /Updated/Stunningly sad news of the suicide of University of Wisconsin junior distance runner Sarah Shulze, 21, reported last week after it took place on 13 April.

Her family set up a tribute site, which included:

“Sarah took her own life. Balancing athletics, academics and the demands of every day life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment. Like you, we are shocked and grief stricken while holding on tightly to all that Sarah was.”

Shulze had lifetime bests of 4:34.21 for 1,500 m outdoors and 16:25.97 for 5,000 m indoors; she was 14th at the 2021 Big 10 women’s 5,000 m. In addition to her running:

“She was also a member of the Student Athlete Council at UW Madison. During her time in Wisconsin, Sarah loved her internship at the Wisconsin state legislature and volunteered as a poll worker during our last Presidential election. These experiences helped develop her deep love for politics, social causes and women’s rights.”

Shulze was a star at Oak Park High School in Ventura County in California; she was the 2018 California State Division III cross-country runner-up. A memorial was held at Wisconsin on Sunday (24th) and a church service will be held in Westlake Village on 2 May.

The family announced “The Sarah Shulze Foundation will seek to advance and support Women’s Rights, Student Athletes and Mental Health.”

The Los Angeles Daily News noted, “It’s the second heart-breaking tragedy that’s hit the east side of Ventura County in the past two months. Former Newbury Park High soccer star Katie Meyer was found dead by suicide in an on-campus residence at Stanford on March 1.

(Thanks to reader Brian Russell for noting our original post with the incorrect spelling “Schulze,” now shown properly.)

● Gymnastics ● An important development in the USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case in front of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana, with a filing that declared the effective date of the re-organization plan to be Monday, 25 April 2022.

Thus, as of Monday, USA Gymnastics and the affiliated parties, including the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and multiple other parties, are “discharged from all liability” in the Nassar abuse and related cases that are part of the bankruptcy filing.

The funding of the $339,457,311 settlement plan (plus attorney’s fees and expenses) by the various insurers has apparently been made and a settlement trust will now take over the administration of payments to the various claimants, based on a questionnaire that qualifies and quantifies the abuse, its nature, duration and impact on the survivors.

This means that actual payments to the survivors might commence within a few months.

● Skating ● The International Skating Union Council announced Sunday new actions regarding Russia and Belarus and future events:

● “Until further notice no Skaters belonging to the ISU Members in Russia (Russian Skating Union and the Figure Skating Federation of Russia) and Belarus (Skating Union of Belarus) shall be invited or allowed to participate in International Competitions, including ISU Championships and other ISU Events. The same applies to Officials listed in the respective ISU Communications and/or Regulations under Russia and Belarus.”

● “Until further notice no International Competitions shall be held in Russia and Belarus. Consequently, the Rostelecom Cup 2022 in Figure Skating will not be included in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series of the season 2022/23.”

National federations interested in hosting a replacement event for the Rostelecom Cup are asked to contact the ISU.

However, the ISU did not jettison the Russian and Belarusian federations, or disallow them from standing for elections at the ISU Congress upcoming in June. But it could still happen:

Considering the fundamental rights of ISU Members as laid down in the ISU Statutes and in Swiss Law, the ISU’s obligation to ensure that the interests of all ISU Members are observed and respected, and mindful of securing the validity of the upcoming 2022 ISU Congress, the Council concluded that no such Council decision shall be taken at this time.

“Such decision shall be subject to a vote by ISU Members at the ISU Congress. Depending on the Ukraine situation and possible motions from ISU Members in this respect at the time of the 2022 ISU Congress, the ISU Council will decide at that time if such a vote shall be conducted at the beginning of the 2022 ISU Congress.”

Observed: So while events will not be held in Russia or Belarus and no Russian or Belarusian skaters or officials can participate in ISU events, Russian and Belarusian officials at the ISU level are continued in office, at least for now. This paradox, which is also true for the International Olympic Committee and other bodies, is being noticed more and more and the irritation over the inconsistencies is growing.

● Weightlifting ● The International Weightlifting Federation announced the award of the 2022 World Championships to Bogota, Colombia, which won out in a field of eight federations – including the U.S. – which volunteered to take over from China, which renounced the event over Covid concerns.

Presentations were made by all eight federations last Friday and a vote was taken on Saturday. This will be the first time that Colombia will host the IWF Worlds.

The choice will be met with some consternation, as Colombia had three doping positives for steroids in 2020 (sanctions continuing into 2024) and two from 2018, with sanctions continuing to the end of October this year.

Observed: With the IWF teetering on the razor’s edge of being thrown off the Olympic program for good, was it smart to choose a country with five active doping suspensions, when other, unsanctioned options were available? Rest assured, the IOC has noticed.

≡ SCOREBOARD ≡

● Athletics ● The USA Track & Field 20 km Walk Championships were held on Sunday in Hauppage, New York, with Nick Christie winning his fourth straight national title, while Miranda Melville won her second.

Christie, the winner of the Olympic Trials in 2021, finished in 1:24:36 to go along with his other titles in 2019 (41:57 for 10 km) and 2018 (1:24:54). That was well ahead of Canada’s Benjamin Thorne (1:27:29) and American Dan Nehnevaj, also the Trials runner-up (1:30:08).

Melville was national champion in 2015 and won this time in 1:36:01, decisively ahead of Venezuelan Natalia Alfonso (1:37:23) and the amazing Maria Michta-Coffey (1:39:55), who was trying for her ninth national title in this event.

In Dudince (SVK) on Saturday, American Robyn Stevens – the Olympic Trials 20 km winner in 2021 – finished fifth and set an American Record of 2:49:29 in the new 35 km Walk. That shattered Miranda’s 3:00:18 from earlier this year in the new longer-distance walking event, replacing the 50 km for both men and women.

Italy’s Olympic 20 km champion Massimo Stano won the men’s 35 km race in 2:29:09 and China’s 2012 Olympic 20 km gold medalist Shenjie Qieyang took the women’s 35 km in 2:43:06.

● Football ● At the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship in the Dominican Republic, the American women’s team sailed through its second match, defeating Puerto Rico by 13-0.

Amalia Villareal scored five goals, starting in the 11th minute as the U.S. led 5-0 at half and had a 34-0 final edge on shots. That’s a 33-0 score line for the American women after two games.

Their final group-stage game will be on Wednesday against Costa Rica, which defeated Grenada by 9-1 and is also 2-0 in the group.

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