World athletics chief Sebastian Coe threw his support Wednesday behind a new team event spearheaded by Usain Bolt, saying the sport needed “brave, bold ideas” to stay relevant.
Nine-time Olympic champion Bolt will headline the inaugural Nitro Athletics in Melbourne next month, captaining the ‘All-Stars’ in the competition.
The meet will feature six teams — including Australia, China, Japan, England and New Zealand — and feature non-traditional events such as middle-distance and hurdles relays in an attempt to broaden athletics’ appeal.
IAAF president Coe said the new-look format across three days was exactly what the sport needed to keep fans interested.
“Athletics, in its traditional form, remains the cornerstone of the Olympic Games,” he said in a statement released by the event organisers.
“And our world championships remain an incredibly strong and attractive event.
“However we need innovation and more opportunities for our athletes to interact with fans and show their personalities.
“Nitro Athletics is a great example of what can be done and what needs to be done to revolutionise how we present our sport and how our fans connect with the sport and the athletes.”
Coe, who has been pursuing a reform agenda since becoming president in 2015, said athletes and fans wanted to have more fun, and the team element in Melbourne was a way to achieve this.
“Athletics is a global sport with a global following, but we need events that bring back the fun, the kids and the crowds and… add a different dimension to the record-setting events like the world championships,” he said.
“We need brave, bold ideas that engage fans in events and across a range of platforms. The only thing stopping us is our imagination and the courage to try something new.”
The meet will involve 24 athletes, both men and women, with all eyes on Bolt who will kick off preparations for what is expected to be his final major competition, the world championships in London in August.
The Nitro series will take place at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on February 4, 9 and 11, with Coe attending the final day.