The IAAF World Indoor Championships at Oregon Convention Center in Portland begins a sprint toward this year’s Summer Olympics. But TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna, who is also head coach of the U.S. men’s track and field team, says the March 17-20 event marks the beginning of a marathon to ignite new energy into the sport in this country. With an international audience watching in person and on television, classic track and field has the opportunity to be presented in a more engaging manner than ever before. The hope is to build a larger, younger fan base that will fill the stands by the time the 2021 IAAF World Championships—the sport’s biggest non-Olympic event—arrives in Eugene, Oregon.
Lananna, chief organizer of the World Indoor Championships, is optimistic that the Portland event—and the March 11-12 USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships, also held in Portland—will help bring new fans in the long run. More immediately, the World Indoor Championships, being held in the U.S. for the first time since 1987, will have a huge benefit for Portland. Travel Portland estimates the World Indoor Championships will generate at least 11,600 room nights, and Oregon Sports Authority puts the economic impact at $25 million for the region. That’s to say nothing of the intangible benefits of international press exposure, notes Cathy Kretz, CMP, senior convention sales manager at Travel Portland. Connect Sports spoke to Lananna about the transformative nature of the IAAF championship and the future of track and field.
Was it difficult to convince the International Association of Athletics Federations to bring back the indoor championships to the U.S.?
The IAAF and the world like to be in the United States, and our athletes are the best in the world. They should have a chance to compete at home and be able to show off their great performances. It probably was not a difficult sell.
“TrackTown is really a state of mind.”
Why Portland over Eugene, where TrackTown USA is based?
The tendency is to think because of the efforts we undertake that we are a Eugene-based organization. We’re really not. TrackTown is really a state of mind. We’re connected with anything in the sport. Portland is a cool city and we thought we could create a great venue there.