The world athletics federation is launching a "Diamond League''' of at least 12 international meets in 2010, seeking to pit the sport's biggest stars against each other on a more regular basis.
|Usain Bolt, left, would be seen as a having global appeal [GALLO/GETTY]
The International Association of Athletics Federations is seeking to expand its worldwide appeal outside Europe by adding two meetings in the United States and one in China, with a likely extension into the Middle East as well.
"The dream came through,'' IAAF president Lamine Diack said.
"We will have all the best meetings of the IAAF Diamond League going round the
The Diamond League, which replaces the Europe-based six-meet Golden League, also wants to improve the entertainment factor with more high-level competition between the top names, something which has often been lacking due to financial disputes between agents.
"Face-to-face meetings of our best athletes are very important. We will have it three to four times'' during the meetings each year, Diack said in a conference call. "It will be good.''
Big stars, big money
The biggest stars will be tied to rich contracts for several of the meets, said Patrick Magyar, organiser of the Zurich Weltklasse meet.
Each of the Diamond League meetings will offer $416,000 in prize money.
With the expanded, streamlined calendar, athletics will resemble lucrative sports circuits such as tennis.
The series "will offer an easily understandable series of meetings to provide world class entertainment,'' Diack said.
The highly marketable jackpot system, which gave the winner of all six Golden League meets $1 million in gold, will be scrapped.
Instead, the series will feature an "IAAF Diamond Race'' in each of 32 different athletics events and the season winner will get a 4-carat diamond worth about $80,000.
Four of the current Golden League meets, Brussels, Zurich, Oslo and Paris, will be part of the new series.
The two others, Berlin and Rome, are still to be confirmed. The Grand Prix in Doha, Qatar, was also listed as "to be confirmed.''
Diack said he was convinced the three will be on board well before next year, making it a 15-meet series.
Venturing outside track's traditional cradle of Europe for the first time, the series will include two meetings in the United States, New York and Eugene, and one in Shanghai or Beijing.
Also taking a step up are two meetings in Britain, Crystal Palace in London and Gateshead, and events in Lausanne, Switzerland, Stockholm and Monaco.
Each meet will have 16 of 32 athletics disciplines and will switch events each year.
For the first three years, the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels and the Weltklasse in Zurich will share the finals.
The body overseeing European meetings will continue to recommend not signing up any athletes who have been involved in doping scandals.
"The general feeling is that these athletes should maybe not participate in the top meetings,'' said Rajne Soderberg, president of the Euromeetings group of organisers.
"It is my hope we can have this kind of effort to deter athletes to cheat.''