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  Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Edmonton breaks even
Commonwealth Stadium
The Commonweatlh stadium was too big for the event
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce in Edmonton.

After ten days of competition, it's time for the verdict. Edmonton 2001 - success or failure?

The official line is uncompromising.

"Never has a World Championships been better organised," said IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai.

Britain's only gold medallist, Jonathan Edwards, was also full of praise.

I think it's been the best Worlds since Gothenburg in 1995
Jonathan Edwards

"I think it's been the best Worlds since Gothenburg in 1995," he said.

"The crowds have been superb and the stadium is excellent."

Others aren't quite so sure. Never has being a British journalist been more dangerous, after one dubbed the city 'Deadmonton' and another called it 'soulless'. Locals were outraged.

Did the Canadian public get into the championships?

The best analogy is that it's been like having a world ice hockey championship in London.

Sure, you might have a couple of thousand hard-core fans who would turn up, and a few thousand more intrigued locals.

But most of the general public would struggle to name a single player.

Maurice Greene
Most Canadians do not recognise Maurice Greene

When a couple of Brit hacks have even managed to mis-spell local hero Wayne Gretzky's name, can we really carp that Canadians remember Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey but don't recognise Maurice Greene?

An element of the crowd's bafflement is understandable.

While the 100m or the high jump make sense to track and field virgins - run as fast as you can, jump as high as you can - other events aren't quite so easy to understand.

We're used to the triple jump and pole vault, having watched them for years. But to a newcomer they are bizarre sights.

Look - a man tries to flip himself over a bar with a bendy stick!

And over there - a woman tries to jump as far as possible by hopping, stepping and then jumping!

As a setting, the city has been welcoming and friendly.

Broken even

And whoever sorted the weather out should be given a pay rise. After two days of downpours in the week preceding the championships, we've had clear skies and temperatures in the mid-20s virtually every day.

The sight of the red-seated stadium cut sharp against a Technicolour blue sky, flags snapping in the wind, will live in the memory for a long time.

Sadly too many of those seats were empty for too much of the time.

In pure revenue terms, the championships have broken even.

Ticket sales, say organisers, are only fractionally short of their 6m target, and attendances have averaged 30,000 a day without recourse to giveaways, as in Seville and Athens.

Olga Yegorova
Olga Yegorova dominated the championships

But there is a lesson here for the IAAF to learn.

If you're going to take the Worlds to a new continent to try to spread the gospel of athletics, don't choose a 60,000-seater stadium that will look half-empty to TV audiences.

The biggest shame of all was that all the good stuff in the Commonwealth Stadium was overshadowed by the issue of doping - and in particular Olga Yegorova.

The IAAF handled the ongoing drama like the amateurs they once professed to be.

One minute she was suspended. Then she was back. Then, we were told, she was about to be given the boot again.

It ended in horribly predictable circumstances, with Yegorova taking gold to a chorus of boos.

Most average

Her news conference afterwards was the ugliest piece of theatre I've seen since the last Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Search through the static and you could find reasons for optimism.

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times, someone once said of a totally different international event.

In Edmonton they were simply the most average of times - and heights, and distances.

For the third World Championships in a row, not a single world record was broken.

Dean Macey
Dean Macey was a rare British success

This isn't because athletes are getting worse. It is a small but significant sign that the battle against doping is not being completely lost.

From a British point of view it began well, with Edwards' golden leap and Dean Macey's brave bronze.

From then on it went downhill faster than Franz Klammer.

Statistically, it was the nation's worst medal haul in 25 years.

Sure, we had injuries and some hard luck stories - and you cannot fault the effort of the team - but it's hard to shake the feeling that the momentum gained in Sydney last year has been lost.

At least someone had it worse. Canada became the first host nation in World Championship history not to claim a single medal.

So - the verdict? A qualified success.

World Athletics Championship site

Statistics section

In-depth coverage

Our man in Edmonton

Clickable guide

Internet links


Links to more Our man at Edmonton stories are at the foot of the page.

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