Allyson Felix, Mt. SAC part of virtual world class track meet
By Scott Reid, Orange County Register
On Feb. 21 there were no reported coronavirus cases in Europe. A few weeks later there would be nearly 38,000 reported cases a day on the continent. European Union nations and Great Britain reported nearly 400,000 cases and almost 24,000 deaths by the end of March.
It was during this period that Christoph Joho, co-director of Zurich’s Weltklasse, the most important and richest annual track meet in the world, came to the realization that event would likely have to be canceled.
“It was in March when the coronavirus outbreak took up speed in Europe and then pretty soon you got the feeling it won’t be possible to have 25,000 people in the sold-out stadium as is tradition in Zurich,” Joho recalled Tuesday. “So we thought, what should we do? Should we go on holiday? Come back in one year? Are there other opportunities? Then we decided to create Inspiration (Games).
The Weltklasse Zurich Inspiration Games Thursday are an innovative, hi-tech attempt to raise the sport’s profile in summer that has seen the Olympic Games, originally scheduled to open in Tokyo later this month,
posted to 2021.
Athletes will compete in eight events held simultaneously at seven empty venues in Europe and the United States for a global television audience (Olympic Channel, 11:00am PDT). The meet also marks the debut of the new Hilmer Lodge Stadium on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut following a $62-million renovation.
“I’m nervous like an athlete the day before the competition,” Joho said.
So how will a meet run in six countries and three time zones work? Allyson Felix (left), the six-time Olympic gold medalist and 13-time World champion, headlines a 150 meter dash that also includes Shaunae Miller-Uibo of adidas and the Bahamas, the 2016 Olympic 400 meter gold medalist and 2019 Diamond League 200 meter champion, and Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, the 2019 World Championships 200 bronze medalist.
Felix will run at Mt. SAC, Miller-Uibo in Bradenton, Florida, and Kambundji at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich. Zurich starts the race by an electronic impulse. The starting guns in Walnut and Florida are activated at the same time. The timing clock starts running at the exact same time at all venues. Television images, however, experience a lag during transmission and will arrive in Zurich somewhat delayed. So the TV images will be synchronized and after a delay of two minutes the races will be broadcast as one race.
“I loved the idea right away,” Felix said. “I thought it was so cool. I had just been training and training and training so anything to break it up. This seemed like something great. I just loved the concept, it was different and creative.”
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