Sacramento wins 2011 world masters championships
By a vote of 69-39, delegates at the Riccione General Assembly of World Masters Athletics today awarded Sacramento the 19th World Masters Athletics Championships. WMA President Cesare Beccalli of Italy had been promoting a rival bid from Porto Alegre, but the Brazilian city was evidently hurt by its plans for a January meet. In Sacramento, the biennial meet will take place July 7-17 (give or take a day or two) in 2011 — making it the first U.S.-hosted world masters meet since 1995 Buffalo. Bob Burns of the Sacramento Sports Commission phoned me with the news about 10 minutes after the noon vote at the Istituto Scientifico A. Volta in the coastal town of Riccione, Italy. Bob called the 2-hour session of presentations, speeches and questions “grueling.”
The capital of California thus ended the current European lock on the world’s most prestigious masters meet. The 2005 event was in San Sebastian, Spain; this year’s it’s Riccione; and in 2009 the worlds are in Lahti, Finland. This will be third world masters outdoor meet in the United States; Eugene, Oregon, hosted a memorable show in 1989, when the world body was known as WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes).
According to Burns, who was media director of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, representatives of his Northern California city faced tough delegate questioning about visa rules. Some nations fear they’ll have a hard time attaining tourist visas to the United States. But Burns said Bill Collins, the M55 double sprint champion who spoke on Sacramento’s behalf, parried questions from the floor and tackled the visa issue head-on — saying local organizers would do everything they could to get folks to California short of changing U.S. law.
Joy Upshaw-Margerum, a W45 world sprint champion, also spoke for Sacramento. She represented the host USATF Pacific Association, her presence dashing rumors that the local USATF association wasn’t involved in the Sacto bid.
If visa considerations were Sacramento’s Achilles’ heel, Port Alegre was hobbled by its plans to stage the meet in January. The last time the WMA world meet was held Down Under — in Brisbane, Australia — the meet took place July 4-14, 2001. Cool but more convenient to the vast majority of masters.
Under WMA bylaws, delegates to the General Assembly are allocated thusly:
Each Affiliate (nation) shall be entitled to one delegate and also one additional delegate for each 100 of its competitors in the last three WMA World Championships Stadia (excluding the current Championships), but no Affiliate shall be entitled to more than five delegates.
So the biggest 5-vote blocs were from Britain, Germany, France and Spain (as well as Canada, Australia and the United States, probably). The major Eurovets nations, Burns said, favored the Sacramento bid.
Despite what they considered a far-superior technical bid (which included the addition of a fourth practice or competition venue at American River College), Sacramento’s reps were sweating bullets until the vote was announced. They feared that Beccalli, married to a Brazilian masters official, would try something sneaky to make good on his oft-stated pledge to bring the world meet to his part-time home.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, in fact, several officials of World Masters Athletics engaged in a disinformation campaign against Sacramento, suggesting in email to various affiliates that Sacto was making a “soft bid” and that its real intention was winning the 2013 meet.
But Burns and fellow rep John McCasey, who manned a booth during the Riccione meet, made it clear to everyone who would listen that Sacramento’s bid was serious. “We had constant traffic” at the booth, Burns said, with Sacramento giving special attention to the team managers who visited. Earlier, the Sactofolk posted two detailed arguments for their city on the SacSports Web site.
Porto Alegre went first at the General Assembly, but its presentation focused on local tourism. Sacramento, by contrast, focused on the athletic experience. (Sacto’s tourism potential was touted as well, but Europeans — the bulk of the voters — know that Disneyland and the Golden Gate Bridge can’t be too far away.)
Burns said the 25-minute Sacramento presentation didn’t start off well. The audio portion of their PowerPoint show wasn’t working, so McCasey (the Sacramento Sports Commission’s CEO) had to provide live narration.
An issue that became a nonissue was the notorious Sacramento heat. Despite lack of a shade structure for the main grandstands at Sacramento State University (site of the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials), the local organizers say delegates didn’t dwell on the weather. Maybe one question came up, Burns said.
As it turns out, the 2003 Puerto Rico worlds suffered tropical storms; and the first day at Riccione saw hurricane-strength winds before conditions turned gentle. So WMA delegates didn’t hold the heat against Sacramento, especially with its promise of a practice track. (Riccione entrants have been heard to complain about a lack of a practice facility during the meet.)
Many more details of the Riccione General Assembly are still to be learned — including the fate of several rules-change proposals — but at least this 9/11 turned out to be a happy moment for America.
Congratulations to Sacramento. See U in 2011.