Chinese Athletic Association vice president Wang Nan speaks during the 2019 European Athletics Congress in Prague (© Getty Images)
The conversation to shape the future of athletics is well and truly under way.
International and national federations and associations, media organisations, community clubs, event organisers, athletes, officials, volunteers, coaches and fans of the sport have been heeding the call to take part in the 'Global Conversation for the Future of Athletics' after the starter pistol was fired by World Athletics president Sebastian Coe on 22 March. The unprecedented worldwide consultation has invited anyone with an interest in the sport to provide their thoughts and opinions to form the foundation of the World Plan for Athletics 2022-2030.
The world’s largest national populace, China, is throwing its weight behind the outreach campaign and urging people to take part. "The World Plan for Athletics 2022-2030 will be a key document for development and direction shaping of the sport, as it will be a roadmap setting out the vision, objectives and mission of global development of athletics," said World Athletics Council Member and vice president of the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) Wang Nan on the association’s website.
"The World Plan will help the CAA to analyse and preview the future development of athletics worldwide, giving us the guideline to make our own development plan and promote more Chinese people to embrace the sport and lead a healthy lifestyle," Wang added.
In Kenya, a place with an incomparably rich heritage in the sport, the nation’s athletics community is now looking to the future. Kenyan national newspaper The Star splashed the announcement across its pages, citing Coe’s urgings that athletics can play a central role in the global recovery from the pandemic.
“I want this conversation to look at the broader role the sport can play because I think we can sit alongside governments, regional bodies and health organisation that are trying to figure out the way to address this health issue. We are the most accessible and democratic sport — everyone can run and we have more people running than ever before,” he said.
Athletics Kenya is also planning a huge social media splash across all its online platforms. Across the west of the continent, a press release issued by the Cameroon Athletics Federation states: “For Cameroon Athletics Federation, the outreach campaign offers a unique opportunity to find key areas of growth for the sport in Cameroon. Over the coming weeks, the organization will arrange a group of initiatives with key stakeholders designed to encourage and facilitate unprecedented levels of feedback. This includes participation in a global survey on Athletics. Whether an athlete, coach, sponsor, volunteer, or a fan, Cameroon Athletics Federation wants to hear your perspective on the future of the sport, with all areas under discussion.”
Meanwhile, in South America, the Athletics Federation of Colombia has written to all stakeholders to stimulate conversation. In a joint letter, president Ramiro Varela and Ciro Solano, president elect of the Colombia Olympic Committee, informed the athletics community of their full support of the process and have committed to convene athletes, officials and coaches through the leagues, clubs and street racing organisations. They are set to host nationwide video conferences on 8 April to outline the consultation plan.
There has also been significant interest in the Global Conversation in the UK and Barbados. In the UK, Athletics Weekly interviewed Willie Banks, chair of the World Athletics World Plan Working Group. He said: “This is one of the greatest projects I’ve ever been lucky enough to work on. I truly believe that out of this we are going to get the deepest and most diverse data any federation has ever had in a sport. I understand that there are still going to be hurdles and challenges but as we create this tailor-made plan, we will be able to meet the challenges of an ever-changing environment.
“The world we’re living in now is in a way we have never known it before. Not just the pandemic, but a social upheaval that we have never seen. So we have to meet these challenges and this plan is what will enable us to do that. In the United States during the last year we’ve been through the MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, environmental changes and huge government shifts. We can’t ignore these and we must keep listening to the people if we want to make a change.”
The Nation News in Barbados made a timely reminder to readers: “Athletics is the number one Olympic sport and in all its forms has more participants than any other,” highlighting the international significance of the Global Conversation for the sport and for societies across the planet.
To give your views on the future of athletics, please complete the survey here by the end of April.