The rain, that flooded the first morning of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, allowed us to dive into the past. We have gone back 40 years, when these World Championships were born in the warm and unusual sun of Helsinki 1983.
It was a revolutionary event for athletics, Primo Nebiolo had managed to sign the first millionaire contract with NBC, which fielded the skilled Alex Gilady as negotiator. It was the beginning of a new era.
When we are asked about the difference between the environment of that time and the current one, between the actors of that time and those of today, we answer:
“The champions of that period, who had also gone through the first painful Olympic boycott, were innovators themselves.
Let’s take Carl Lewis, the Son of the Wind, who had brought a new air in clothing, in the way of proposing and directing the action on stage. Carl had an exceptional physique, he was born to run and jump with textbook technique. A natural showman.
Then there was Edwin Moses the intellectual, who effortlessly destroyed the competition, studying every detail. He was meticulous in inspecting the track the day before the race, he studied all the angles, he left nothing to chance.
“Carl was colourful and elegant on stage, Edwin dressed in a classic and refined way.”
It was not difficult for the press to talk to them and therefore the stories that were brought to the attention of the public were riveting and widened the interest.
Let us not forget that at that time in Europe the Coe-Ovett challenges had engulfed the environment, they were not only interesting for the British public. There was great attention to every detail and the golden age of athletics was born. You could feel the excitement on your skin.
After forty years, the situation has logically changed, our work as journalists is different, the medium we use, the computer, decides for us the pace of commitment and at the same time has offered some sports managers and almost all athletes the possibility of carefully avoiding us.
The stories that years ago they managed to build with long interviews and research can now be produced in a matter of seconds by Artificial Intelligence and it doesn’t matter if they are not original and completely reliable.
We must not be pessimistic, but look to the future with confidence.
Of course, it will be necessary for us to accept a sort of cultural revolution, but the principles on which honest and serious journalism is based have not changed, only the means we use have changed and which must not influence our ability to judge.
Another revolution must be accepted by the actors of sport, the champions and their agents, who must open up again. Why are top class champions like Duplantis, Ingebrigtsen, Warholm and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, to name just a few, not very popular? Why can’t they just rely on social media?
Because in that virtual world they end up drowning in little attention, as the users of that world are in a hurry and are distracted by millions of other images and information. Yes, there is a hard core of enthusiasts, which however is dwindling, because it is often an elderly population, while the younger generations risk remaining indifferent, if we don’t first build the characters, who can strike the public’s imagination.
It’s just a problem of choice and hard work that we expect: We have to leave aside the complaints and phrases like this: “Before there was more passion, good times ….” The best time is the future.
Credit: AIPS Media