The IAAF Council meeting in Buenos Aires on 26-27 July was one of the busiest in recent memory. In addition to its decisions on doping control and what to do about Russia, it also addressed a major gripe of fans.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe noted in his post-meetings news conference that “We discussed the need to address the issue of large numbers of athletes at the Diamond League wearing identical kit, which causes confusion for spectators and broadcasters. This has to change and a group has been set up to drive this change.”
This is going to be tricky, because there is only one reason why so many athletes wear the same uniform. They are all sponsored by Nike.
On the one hand, Nike’s sponsorship of athletes is a good thing and is to be commended and encouraged. But for anyone who watches Diamond League or World Challenge or even domestic meets in person or on television, a whole lot of people are wearing the same thing. It’s especially annoying for anyone watching a meet in person, as tracks are big places and athletes running on the opposite side of the stadium are hard enough to pick out even wearing different uniforms.
Coe is in the best possible position to help sort this out, given his long service to Nike, which included a years-long consulting position that he had to give up – under pressure – when he became the IAAF President.
One place for the IAAF to start looking for ideas is triathlon. The International Triathlon Union actually approves national suits for its ITU World Series events and the approved set of national uniforms for 2018 runs to 154 pages!
The creative aspect of the World Series uniforms is that while each country has its own colors and design, there is space for enough logos to make the triathletes look like NASCAR drivers … perfect for the IAAF to allow its athletes to attract more sponsors and gather more support. The future?