Australian discus record holder Benn Harradine has taken time out from throwing hummus-filled socks and dreaming up new colour combinations for this next uniform to tell SPIKES about his fantasy athletics meet. Here is his concoction.
“The meet would be held in an airplane hangar in my home nation of Australia. Why an aircraft hangar? Why not? If you’ve ever seen an aircraft hangar, they occupy a grand space and look cool with all the bits of metal up in the roof. It is very rustic! How cool would it be to see the pole vaulters competing with an aircraft in the background?” [SPIKES thinks very]
“I appreciate Australia is a long way from the rest of the world, so to really add value to the athletes’ trips I would promote it as a three-meet aircraft hangar series, with the final staged in Brisbane, Queensland. This would give athletes time to recover from the jetlag, and also provide an incentive to travel Down Under. They could potentially combine it with a productive training camp and some sightseeing in this wonder we call Australia.
“The competition would pit nation versus nation in a quick-fire, two to two-and-a-half-hour time slot. It would be a maximum of two athletes per team, per event. To help generate more atmosphere, local schools and athletics clubs would support the athletes from the different nations by dressing up in that nation’s colours.
“The overall competition would be scored on points with the team element allowing for a greater spectator involvement. My meet would have the likes of 60m and 60m hurdles, pole vault, shot put, long jump and discus throw.”
Is this what Benn Harradine keeps under that hat of his? Possibly.
“I’d love to have a 60m in which you could market the race between the fastest able-bodied 60m athlete in the world against the fastest 60m athlete with cerebral palsy, for example. It would be organised in a calculated handicap format based on the athletes’ best time.
“If the handicap is three metres the focus would be on ‘closing the gap’ between the able-bodied and disability athlete. This would be a great way to merge able-bodied and disability athletics and also highlight the attitude of the athletes and help raise spectator interest.
“The discus throw could be men versus women, as the distances thrown are very similar. The pole vault could be a lot more cut-throat, with only three fouls per athlete allowed across the whole competition. The long jump could have at least one athlete eliminated every round to generate guaranteed interest throughout the competition.”
“My meet would allow sponsors to actually 'buy a team' for the series. So, for example, Germany could be sponsored by Germany Power X, Australia by Australian Energy, etc. The sponsors are capped at a maximum and also start with a minimum cash figure. This could appeal to companies who are keen to introduce their brand to a global audience. The money could also assist with the costs of logistics and flying athletes in to compete in the series.”
Nice uniform. But what underwear have you got on?
“The viewer experience of following a field event competition needs to be greatly enhanced. It is often difficult to follow the field event action, but in my meet both the TV viewer and meet spectator would have access to information on the discus throwers, for example power to weight ratio, release speed, etc.
“How cool would it be to see Robert Harting's bench press PBs compared to Benn Harradine's; or that Harting’s speed in the circle was 30m/s, and that is why he hurled the discus more than his competitors? Some other fun facts also need to be noted, like choice of undergarment, favourite song to compete to, pre-competition meal, etc.” [SPIKES' answers: thong, the thong song, biscuits]
“I would like the meet to be highly produced, just like a stage show. This allows the fans to have greater engagement with the meet and the personalities within it, and it would also help attract more casual athletics fans. So I would have DJs, fireworks and laser shows, the latest camera work, jumbo vision, all to make the sport more entertaining.
“From an athlete's point of view, if they believe the event is fun they will perform much better. My favourite meet every year is in Halle, Germany, because the atmosphere is always so amazing and the crowd so appreciative of the throws. I chose that meet to wear my Bavarian-style track uniform and the crowd went nuts.
“At the end of the day, no-one should leave the meet caring if the discus is won with 61m or the pole vault 5.40m, they such just appreciate and enjoy the overall entertainment package and go home satisfied. The key is for spectators to be up close and personal with the action. I want the paying spectators to believe they are interacting with the athletes. I want them to hear the screams of the athletes and feel their sweat.”