Integration of the hammer throw in the programme of the IAAF Diamond League in 2013
The hammer throw is an event in athletics with great, more than hundred-year-old, Olympic tradition. In 2000 the women’s competition was incorporated into the Olympic Programme and since then has shown steady growth both in number of participants, and number of World Records.
Nevertheless, this development is thwarted by the continual exclusion of the event from stadiums and the non-integration in the competition programme of the Diamond League.
Why hammer throw?
The hammer throw unites technique, power, speed and dynamism like no other throwing event. The kinetic energy generated all together is unique even in the whole sports world. To toss a 7.26kg or 4kg-object more than 80 m or more than 75 m even beats the performance of the best weightlifters. In comparison to all other track and field throwing events men with the 7.26kg hammer and women with the 4kg hammer achieve the furthest distances. The only exception being able to top these distances is men’s 800gr javelin throw. As it is well known it is men’s javelin throw that attracts the spectators attention because of they can produce distances over 80m in stadium.
These specific physical attributes become evident while one watches both male and female hammer throwers in action. To be able to produce these achievements, one must connect extreme strength with dynamic power and technique. The progressively increasing, elegant rotating movement leads to powerful release after four spins in which the before built up tension discharges in split seconds.
The popularity of the hammer throw as a traditional Olympic discipline began to decline around the turn of the millennium. The integration of the women’s hammer throw and the rapid development in distances was successfully counteracting against this downward trend. The event still never was a component of the most important track and field competition series, the Golden league, and was also excluded from the competition programme of the Diamond League since the DL’s birth in 2012.
By initializing the IAAF Hammer Challenge, a substitute for the DL was created, and ever since it’s creation it has fueled the event’s discrimination within the sport of athletics, socially and financially. Hammer throwers are now the ‘odd man out’, being excluded from their mother sport and not being put on equal grounds with their fellow athlete, within their World Federation.
Although claimed in the mission IAAF statement “To foster the worldwide development of athletics, establishing friendly and loyal co-operation between all members for the benefit of athletics, peace and understanding between nations”, the hammer throw seems to be excluded from the equal support of all events. This reveals itself most by the exclusion of the event from the Diamond League.
This non-integration of the hammer throw pushes the sport out of bounds, socially and athletically. In the specially created hammer Challenge the competitions are held outside the stadium in most cases, before the real opening practically to the exclusion of the public. Moreover, some questionable qualification modes have come up in different meetings during the past two years with which all hammer throwers must take part at a knockout competition the day before to qualify for the competition on the day of the real meeting. The first four athletes each in in the female and male competition qualify for another four attempts on the main competition day.
This mode is complicated and athlete-unfriendly. In addition, the whole regulation is also not clear for the spectator and is difficult to understand. Even more to the spectator it looks like the hammer throw is presented as a sort of “insert competition” within the frame of the other events, which are held to the original rules. Above all, this competition mode with four female and four male finalists taking three throws each, is an attempt to shorten the hammer throw competition.
It is slightly just like as if one suggested in the most time consuming event of athletics, pole vaulting, to grant only two attempts per height to shorten the competition, so that it becomes more interesting for the spectator.
This (discriminating) treatment and the consequent exclusion the hammer throw has lead to, and intensifies an ‘us-and-them’ status within the same sport; wherein Athletics is the ‘us’, and hammer throwers have become the ‘them’. The spectator can no longer identify hammer throw as a traditional part of the Core-Olympic athletics.
The lack of a younger generation of hammer throwers and a long-term retrogression of the performances will be the result.
Though the so-called IAAF Hammer Challenge was created in compensation for the non-consideration of the event in the Diamond League, clear financial inequalities also arise beside the already mentioned athletic and social distinctions. The budget per event in a Diamond League meeting amounts to 29.000$, while 7500$ are used to hold a Hammer Challenge meeting.
With an easy crosscheck comparing the bonuses from 1st to 8th place it becomes obvious that a victory in a hammer Challenge competition is worth the same as finishing 6th in a Diamond League meeting. Also the bonus for the winner of the final ranking of the respective competition series shows a difference of 10.000$ between 40.000$ in the Diamond League and 30.000$ in the Hammer Challenge.
In for example four victories of an athlete in his/her competition series and the bonus of the final ranking there’s a 42.000$ gap between a Diamond League athlete and a thrower in the Hammer Challenge having produced equivalent achievements at world class level.
Counterarguments and their disproof
„Danger for spectators and other athletes“
The last time anyone was injured in athletics was in 2007 when a javelin thrower hit a long jumper with his implement. In the past discus’ have also veered out of sector and hurt people.
Both the discus and the javelin pose a threat as a long throwing event, but this was never a factor that left them out of the Diamond League. Hammer throw is not any more dangerous than either the javelin or the discus.
„DL meetings locations cannot provide adequate hammer throw cages. “
It is unlikely that meet venues such as Stockholm, Rome or London cannot provide an IAAF certified cage, especially considering that other venues like New York, Zurich, Paris and Eugene have already hosted elite level hammer competitions.
„Television cameras and spectators are restricted in their view due to the hammer throw cage“
More and more athletics meetings use black nets, which appear transparent and can’t be detected by the human eye from only a few meters away. While more aesthetic, this net also provides with the security needed.
The German sports venue outfitter Benz has developed an IAAF certified, portable cage which can be erected at any location without ground anchorage and is standard for discus throw as well as hammer throw.
„Damage of the football lawn and the lawn heating“
The Berlin Olympic stadium is equipped with a heating system beneath the lawn. Despite this fact it was the venue for the 2009 IAAF World Championships. Berlin also successfully hosted Womens Hammer in the 2011 ITAF meeting.
Another factor that needs to be considered when discussing damage to a football lawn and its heating system is that an 800gr javelin that travels 90m through the air will pierce several centimeters into the ground; not only the hammer damages the lawn.
Divots of 5 to 6 centimeters can be replaced by patches of lawn. Any implement, whether it be a javelin, discus or hammer (men’s or women’s) would not create deeper divots than that, therefore underground drainage and heating systems would not be damaged
„No integration in the DL’s TV concept possibel“
If a meet is organized proficiently and professionally, with modern measuring equipment, a throwing competition with eight athletes each getting six throws could be carried out and completed in under an hour.
If the media and the meeting organizers would schedule the meet together, they could create a rotating system. If three long throw events were to be hosted one after the other, they could all be completed in less than two hours and the television could cover at least part of the three competitions. They could cover the last part of the first throwing event, the second event in its entirety, and the beginning of the last event.
„Hammer throw as an additional expense factor in the budget of the DL“
This statement would be true of any event, not specifically hammer throw.
In addition, the budget per DL meeting was increased according to a press release in 2011 from 450.000$ to 480.000$.
These newly acquired $30.000 would be sufficient for the financing of an additional event per DL meeting because $29.000 have to be provided per event per meeting as mentioned above.
>The constant exclusion has foreseeable consequences
The missing media cover complicates a long-term development of this discipline and makes it especially hard for hammer throwers to convince sponsors of their marketability. Potential sponsors cannot get excited about starting a relationship with a hammer thrower when they know that their athlete will not be getting any TV time or competing in large venues with big crowds of people. Banishing hammer throwers to compete in the warm-up fields, outside the stadiums, and the day before the actual competition, has created an unfair inequality amongst athletes. Not only does the sport of hammer throwing suffer, the individual hammer throwers are also made to struggle in their search for financial support.
Track and Field, as a core Olympic sport needs to keep up with trendier or flashier sports of today’s world. It is difficult to keep young and talented kids motivated and interested in Athletics, thinking of long term growth and results. For this to happen, they need role models in the sport.
When the media broadcasts the Diamond League, young athletes can see all of their favorite athletes, follow their competition, and want to be like them.
One must take into account the tendency of young kids to rush and join a sports club after they have seen a televised broadcast of a football or handball World Championship. Young athletes want to emulate their role models that they see on TV. But hammer throw is rarely seen on TV, and no other Athletic event has as few junior talents as the hammer throw.
Integrating the hammer throw into the Diamond League would achieve equality amongst all athletes. Promising young talents would receive an important new perspective, seeing an opportunity for their own growth within a sport that is also growing. The hammer throw would lose its status as an outsider and the sport could once again witness thrilling duel meets like Sedyk and Litvinov did in the 1980’s, except with today’s stars like Murofushi-Pars or Wlodarczyk-Heidler.
It is understood that the IAAF only holds 25% of the Diamond League legally and financially. However, neither the Diamond League, or the previous Golden League would have existed if not for the IAAF. Even before the DL’s birth, the idea was approached already excluding the hammer throw, not allowing the event to show itself in big stadiums and with television coverage. Both the IAAF and the Diamond League want to improve the sport of Athletics, by raising its presence in the world, but they are doing a disservice to themselves and to the sport by excluding the hammer throw and they both hold equal responsibility in that.
The hammer throw is a unique event in Athletics, uniting power, speed, dynamic technique and elegance like no other event. The Men’s hammer is already a traditional event in Athletics, coupled with a relatively new Women’s hammer throw, which is already showing strong growth with the World Record increasing yearly.
If the hammer throw were to achieve equality with other throwing events as should be according to the IAAF mission statement, and were integrated into the sports most important competition series, that would enable hammer throwers to have access to high-quality competitions on a world stage.
Kathrin Klaas (author; original in German)
Kathrin Klaas, Jennifer Dahlgren (English translation)