So 2017 is here and as well as bringing a new year it is also bringing with it a potential new sport. Nitro Athletics Melbourne is the first of its kind and boasts Usain Bolt as its first superstar competitor. It is the brainchild of Australia Athletics and the endgame seems to be making a new competition to take over regular season track and field. If it can pull it off and proves popular it could just be the start of something brand new.
The concept is to turn athletics into a team sport. There will be six teams in Melbourne all representing a country except a special team led by Usain Bolt (Bolt All-Stars). The teams will be made up of 24 athletes, split equally between men and women. They will then compete over three days in events involving sprints, distance and field. Winners will be decided by making accumulative points depending on where the teams athletes finish. This means that finishing first will be worthless if your teammate finished last. Points will start at 100 for 1st place.
As well as this team point building they also have at their disposal wild cards that they can play at certain events. The Nitro Powerplay will double anyone who uses it’s points, and the steal will take 50% of a rivals away. The catch is they can only be used once over the three-day event.
It may sound wacky but the format has the backing of the World Athletics Chief Lord Sebastien Coe. Bottom of Form
“We need brave, bold ideas that engage fans in events,” said Coe. “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. 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.”
The events themselves will cover a variety of sprints which always draws the crowds. With Usain Bolt captaining one team he will be bringing his Olympic prowess to the track in Melbourne. He has put his belief behind the project and it is just what a competition like this needs to grab media attention and spark fan interest. The most interesting events though are the long distance running who have mixed up their formats to include elimination laps where the person placed last will be ejected from a race and a 3-minute run. This will be a combined distance between a man and woman on a team rather than a quickest time.
Ideas like Nitro Athletics are usually left in the boardroom, but there seems to be great support among those in athletics for the event. It is seen as a rejuvenating event, that could potentially lead to financial backing that might rival other global sports. For now, it’s up for the public to decide whether they like the new team elements. For me athletics has always been about individual achievement or winning a race alone. If you take away these climactic elements what are you left with? Time will tell.