Kenya, Ethiopia urge IAAF not to cut races

Isaack Omulo
The lucrative Diamond League circuit will no longer feature the 5000m and 10,000m

Kenyan athletics chiefs say they will oppose a decision by the sport's world governing body to cut the 5000m and 10,000m from the lucrative Diamond League circuit.

Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei has described the decision to drop the two events in which African athletes have traditionally excelled as "totally unfair".

Ethiopia's long distance great Haile Gebrselassie says limiting the longest event in the circuit to 3000m will disproportionately affect Kenya and Ethiopia, two powerhouses of middle and long distance running.

The IAAF said on Monday the circuit will have a trimmer look and fewer meetings as the one-day competitions aim for a more consistent and fast moving format.

Meetings will be reduced from 14 to 12 competitions, while the number of disciplines will be cut from 32 to 24 with 12 each for men and women.

The IAAF disputed claims scrapping the 5000 from the 90-minute Diamond League television window would unfairly effect African athletes.

"I will raise the issue at an African Athletics Confederation (AAC) Congress in Abidjan next month because this is totally unfair to our athletes," Tuwei told reporters.

Prominent Athletics Kenya Nairobi region chairman Barnaba Korir said track and field would lose its historical significance and financial incentives if the longer distances were dropped.

Korir said track and field legends Paavo Nurmi, Haile Gebreselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe, Kip Keino, Henry Rono, Paul Tergat, Said Aouita and Hicham El Guerrouj were all 5000m and 10,000m athletes.

"Our athletes would lose significant income from the circuit if the two races are dropped," he said.

"This would have a trickling effect and demoralise young athletes who admire their successful compatriots in their flashy cars and high-end property, thanks to prize money from winning long distance races.

"They can limit the races broadcast live and still have the 5000m and 10,000m on the program," he said.

The Ethiopia Athletics federation described the IAAF decision as illegitimate and urged Africans to "shout loud to the IAAF to stop the silent killing of our long distance running".

The IAAF said part of the reason for choosing the 3000m as the longest distance was the need to schedule six of each event for each gender.

Feedback from runners was that they could not run six 5000m races during the season.

IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon said meetings would have the option of holding 5000m events outside the 90-minute international TV window.