Athletics News

Nine takeaways from the World Cross in Belgrade

FitzGerald and Bailey finish top Europeans in Belgrade

The 2024 World Cross Country Championships was far from perfect but it remains one of the most important events on the athletics calendar

Where were all the crowds?

Two hours before the first race at the World Cross Country Championships, there was a 5km fun run on the banks of the Sava River next to the Park of Friendship. As I was walking to the championships I spotted some runners leaving the event, but in the direction of Belgrade city centre and not the World Cross.

Then I saw a Welsh runner and AW reader who told me he’d stumbled upon the event randomly, took part on a whim and was planning to get back to the park to watch the World Cross races. We wondered just how many fun runners were aware the greatest runners in the world were competing a few hundred metres away later that morning.

As it turns out, probably not many. The crowds for the races were sparse. This was despite Seb Coe calling for the people to come out and watch. “It’s not often a world championships comes to your city,” he said on the eve of the event.

Trying to find how to watch the event on television or the internet was the usual struggle, too. A few days before the event British fans were left scratching around for various internet feeds. Whether it was on the BBC was a mystery at that stage, although they belatedly came up with the goods by announcing their coverage on red button, iPlayer and online just 48 hours before the races began.

Apparently their coverage had been planned for months. So why wait until so late in the day to tell people? Emails from AW to BBC publicity people a week or so before the champs were ignored as well. Then, to add insult to injury, they didn’t show the under-20 women’s race.

When it came to fans at the event, Geoff Wightman reminded everyone on Twitter that the 2008 World Champs in Edinburgh, which he helped orchestrate, had great crowds. True, they were far better than Belgrade and most other World Cross events. But I remember the UKA performance director at the time didn’t bother going. Nor did some of Britain’s big-name athletes like Mo Farah. It was a busy event, too, but not exactly packed to the rafters and I reported at the time that lots of British athletes and coaches had missed an opportunity not to watch the World Cross on their doorstep.

U20 women’s start (Getty)

Belgrade is the new Bydgoszcz

Before Saturday’s World Cross, Belgrade also hosted the 2022 World Indoors, 2017 European Indoors and the 2013 European…

CLICK HERE to Read the Full Original Article at AW…