By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (16-May) — The visual is captivating: imagine Olympic medalists in full sprint coming down one of the busiest streets in all of Boston, the vibrant Boston Public Garden on one side and the iconic Boston Common on the other. This will become reality on June 18, when the adidas Boost Boston Games debut here in the Massachusetts capital. Today, Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh joined Mark Wetmore, meet director and president of Global Athletics & Marketing, as well as Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder Maurice Greene to celebrate the meet’s inaugural year.
“Boston is thrilled to welcome the adidas Boost Games,” said Walsh, speaking to a small crowd at Boston Common. “We are thrilled to witness Olympic and world-class champions racing down Charles Street. We already know that Boston is a championship city, home to some of the best sports teams and sports fans in the country. The street meet will showcase our spirit and passion to the world in a new and exciting way… We are always looking for fresh fun ways to achieve and activate our public spaces in the City.”
This summer, a slice of Olympia will come to Boston and take center stage in one of the most popular sections of the city. The two-day meeting, which in essence replaces the former adidas Grand Prix in New York City on the calendar (though is not part of the IAAF Diamond League), is geared towards reviving the sport of track and field. It will be televised nationally, and is a key tune-up for many Olympic-bound athletes.
Split into two days, the meet offers two distinct themes that organizers say will enthrall spectators. First, on Friday, June 17, events of 400 meters and longer will be held at an evening meet at Somerville’s Dilboy Stadium. While this may sound like a typical meet on the surface, it will be enhanced by an open barbecue and fan-fest for all attendees, complete with opportunities to meet and take pictures with athletes after they’re done competing.
Professional events on the schedule as of today include the men’s 400m and 1500m, as well as the women’s 400m, 800m, and 5000m. The iconic adidas High School Dream Miles will also play-out, in addition to youth, prep, and masters events for local athletes.
“After the track events are done there, then we are going to have a post-event festival, a barbecue where everybody who comes to that event on Friday will be invited to eat some good food, hang out with the adidas athletes, do selfies. It’ll be that kind of atmosphere,” said Wetmore. Wetmore noted that the adidas High School Dream Miles will feature the traditional top-notch level of competition, though he has no idea if a Drew Hunter-Michael Slagowski match-up is in the works. Meet sponsor adidas selects the high school fields directly, and they will be announced sometime in the coming month.
The next day is when track takes over Boston’s Back Bay and Downtown neighborhood. A 150-meter Mondo track –currently being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean from Italy to Boston– will be put on top of a 30-inch platform running down Charles Street. Youth athletes through Olympians will all take to the track and adjacent field event pits for a four-hour long showcase meet, bringing both die-hard fans and those walking through the city together. Charles Street has played host to major races before –including the B.A.A. 5-K, B.A.A. 10-K, and Tufts 10-K for Women– though never a track meet.
“We don’t have a lot of stadiums in the U.S. that could host a Diamond-level league event. We’re trying to create a stadium almost on the day, which is very difficult to do,” Wetmore said, speaking to the unique atmosphere he seeks to develop. “We have an event here which is going to have finish area seating, but the rest is going to be completely free and open to the public. Just like it is in Manchester [Great Britain], you can walk up to the side and you’ll literally be an arm’s length away from Olympic heroes. The pole vault and long jump are going to be on there, too, and [the fans] will be able to see all the events here.”
Seats closest to the finish cost $50 to $100, however the rest of the straightaway will be free and open to the public.
Olympian Greene, taking part in the event as an ambassador for adidas, believes that street meets like the adidas Boost Boston Games could lead to increased popularity in the sport, especially if they are marketed correctly. While he never got to compete in one, Greene thinks the unique setting can gain fans attention in a positive light.
“This is the first one in America like this. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?” Greene said. “I think this is going to bring new energy to it. There have been a couple of this type of meets throughout the world and they’ve shown a lot of great promise. To do it here in Boston for the first time, you’re going to get some fans who are curious about it and you’re going to get the regular fans.”
Later Greene added: “When you have any type of track and field event, as long as it’s marketed and publicized, you’re going to get a lot of people to come out and see it… I think as long as people know about it, it’ll be a great event.”
Interestingly, the meet only took shape a mere two months ago, when Wetmore approached adidas and the City of Boston with the idea. Adidas was on-board from the get-go, and was keenly interested in the prospective of an outside-the-box type meet. While the adidas Grand Prix Diamond League meeting was successful in many ways, it was time for a shift in direction. Wetmore believes this meet can be an enhanced version of that meet’s legacy.
“We were really wondering what the next generation was going to be with the Diamond League. We’ve enjoyed being part of the Diamond League, but we and adidas wanted to do something different,” he said. “I presented this idea to them basically at the end of January, without really knowing what I was going to do, and they said sure just go ahead and run with it. We looked at the possibility of doing it in New York, along Fifth Avenue, and we looked at the possibility of doing it up here, and adidas really liked the idea of doing it up here. Literally, it just kind of started and we spoke to Mayor Walsh’s office right away and things started moving very, very quickly.”
City officials praised the meet for connecting Boston’s sporting tradition with the city’s parks and public places.
“This is another way how we bring sports and culture in our city together to inspire us,” Mayor Walsh said. “When we talk about making sure we activate our city and bring fun events to our city, this is what we’re talking about. We were able to bring this together in a very short period of time.”
In describing the meet’s impact on the City of Boston, Mayor Walsh used words like innovative, inspiring, and world-class. Rather than sit back and host a typical track meet, Wetmore, adidas, and the Global Athletics & Marketing team have tried to tap into what could be a future installment of our sport. Athletes have expressed strong support, according to Wetmore, and are eager to try something new.
“I think that’s true, that you talk about sponsorship within the sport –people like adidas– it’s a forward thinking way of reaching consumers,” Wetmore said.