After Croatian plans to stage this winter’s big event collapse, the search for a replacement venue nears its conclusion
The 2024 World Cross Country Championships is looking for a new home after Croatia was forced to abandon plans to stage next year’s event in Medulin and Pula amid accusations from World Athletics that “preparations have not advanced sufficiently”.
The global governing body say they are in advance negotiations with a replacement host. Finding an alternative venue probably wasn’t easy, though, given that the event has earned a reputation in recent years as the unwanted child of World Athletics.
The last time Britain staged the event was in 2008 when Holyrood Park in Edinburgh proved a fine setting. However some of the host country’s top athletes like Mo Farah chose not to compete and even the UKA performance director at the time did not turn up.
In 2009 the event moved to Amman in Jordan with athletes racing on a course that I described in AW as “resembling a building site” and where the only grass was in the home straight.
From that dust-up in the desert the World Cross moved to Bydgoszcz in both 2010 and 2013 as the Polish city staged it twice in the space of three years largely due to lack of interest from anyone else in hosting it. Sandwiched in between was a sun-drenched event in Punta Umbria in Spain in 2011 before it moved to the far-flung location of Guiyang in China in 2015.
By this stage there were regular calls to “save the World Cross” with many European teams effectively boycotting it and after lively 2017 event in Kampala, which is best remembered for Joshua Cheptegei imploding in the men’s race, the event was truly revitalised in Aarhus in 2019 with an imaginative course that included athletes running up the roof of an eco-museum.
After being delayed due to the pandemic, Bathurst in Australia took up the baton and held a good championships with a number of “features” on the course designed to test athletes and entertain spectators.
In 2026 the event is due to be staged in Tallahassee in the United States, but the 2024 meeting now has a question mark over it.
At least the new 2024 host will have a few months to prepare. In 2001 the World Cross was due to be held in Dublin but the hosts had to pull out (eventually hosting the event in 2002 instead) due to foot-and-mouth disease. Belgium came to the rescue with firstly Brussels and then Ostend offering to stage the…