IN WHAT is expected to be the initial part in a shake-up of the domestic schedule, UK Athletics have confirmed that Glasgow is to stage the annual Grand Prix – the jewel in the crown of the indoor season – in 2016.
The city has not taken sole possession. Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena, the current hosts, will alternate with the Emirates Arena until at least 2020 under the revised plans.
It is, however, an addition with subtraction. The annual International Match, which was first held at the now-closed Kelvin Hall in 1987, is to come to an end, a casualty of the BBC’s decision to withdraw live television coverage.
With its status devalued, what turned out to be the final edition last month had a much downgraded cast list. While the Grand Prix has always attracted the A-List in larger quantities, many will mourn the passing of its elder companion.
“Glasgow has hosted the International Match so well over the years, and they were understandably keen after the Commonwealth Games to increase the profile of the event to the level that the Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham enjoyed,” said UKA’s event director Cherry Alexander.
“This means we will take world-class indoor athletics to Scotland every other year for the immediate future, the increase in the quality of competitor fields, the competition programme and the profile will enhance both the spectator and television audience experience.
“It is also a great result for Birmingham, who will be able to focus on delivering the world’s best ever indoor championships in 2018, safe in the knowledge that the world’s best Indoor Grand Prix will still reside within the UK.”
Scottish Government funding undoubtedly fortified the bid. Scottish 3000m indoor title holder Laura Muir welcomed the news. “To have it up here will be great, especially with Glasgow looking to host the European Indoor Championships in 2019,” she said.
This year’s edition, to be held in Prague, is uppermost in the mind of the middle-distance prospect. It is, she believes, an opportunity to truly break into the elite. The trials come first, in Sheffield this weekend, where defending the UK 1500m title would allow the 21-year-old to plan for a trip to the Czech capital next month. But, after the tactical and racing mistakes that wrecked her hopes of success in 2014, Muir is now focusing on the educative process rather than looking back with despair.
“In racing, it takes time to come,” she said. “You go through all those experiences to learn it. I learnt a bit from the year before, that I hadn’t really been in races where you get pushed and clipped. Then it was dealing with the pressure of being up there. At the Commonwealths, I did deal with it very well. I was just unfortunate with what happened, getting tripped, but I’d learnt from the world indoors going to Commonwealths. It just didn’t quite go to plan.
“You do one thing right and another one goes wrong. But I know I did everything I could have and now I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Legislating for bumps and bruises remains an impossibility. The tactical collapse that undermined her best at the world indoors 13 months ago was self-inflicted at a moment when her times and talent hinted that a place on the podium was within reach. “With these championships, it is more likely and hopefully it will happen,” she said. “It depends what event I’m in, what the field is like and what shape I’m in at the time. But, yeah, I’d love to get my first senior medal – sooner rather than later.”
Less than 18 months out from Rio, it would be a welcome boost.