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World Athletics seeks to open up venue thinking with ‘short track’ shift

The Netherlands’ Femke Bol competing at the 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul

Featured image credit: Erik van Leeuwen/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

The Netherlands’ Femke Bol competing at the 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul

Featured image credit: Erik van Leeuwen/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

World Athletics has detailed plans to rethink the concept of indoor athletics, repositioning it under the new term ‘short track’ in part to encourage greater flexibility in venue planning for event organisers.

World Athletics intends to introduce the new term ‘short track’ to replace the current term ‘indoor’ to describe events and performances that are set on a 200m track, traditionally staged indoors.

The World Athletics Council is supporting the concept of ‘short track’ competition to allow more flexibility in the setting of 200m tracks, which may, in the future, be constructed outdoors or in temporary city locations, rather than in a traditional indoor arena. Performances set on outdoor or temporary 200m tracks could therefore be recognised as official results for the purpose of records and rankings.

The move, which is set to be formally approved at August’s World Athletics Council meeting in Budapest, is set to end more than 150 years of tradition. During this time, athletics has been divided between ‘outdoor’ competition, staged on a standard 400m oval track, and ‘indoor’ competition, which developed in cold climates to provide athletes from those countries with an indoor venue, typically a 200m oval track, to train and compete during the winter season.

Because these events were conducted in a different environment, with the closed indoor facility protected from any weather interference, the performances were not regarded as comparable with outdoor marks. Consequently, World Athletics and national federations have always maintained separate lists of indoor and outdoor events and performances for statistical and records purposes.

However, World Athletics believes that with the advent of modern athletics and the development of hybrid competition venues – such as city squares, shopping malls and train stations – it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the separation between outdoor and indoor athletics. Indeed, in some field events, the separation has been eliminated altogether for world record purposes.

This evolution has prompted the sport’s world governing body to redefine the boundaries of outdoor and indoor athletics, so they relate to the competition facility rather than to the environment.

World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe, said: “This change is designed to remove an unintentional barrier to competition innovation, by offering organisers the chance to explore solutions and opportunities which the current rules may discourage.

“Under this new concept, the 200m short track will no longer be confined to the indoor environment, and a world of opportunities will open up for meeting organisers to stage official competition in whatever facilities they have available, either indoors or outdoors, using 200m or 400m tracks.

“This change will allow and actively encourage the possibility for 200m tracks to move to an outdoor environment and will provide a more affordable option to cities, especially where space is in short supply, while stimulating the growth of the sport through investment in new infrastructure.”