THE world’s leading athletes will converge on Glasgow in July, when the two-day ‘London’ leg of the IAAF Diamond League is held at Hampden.
The event on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 July will be known as the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix, and will be seen by many competitors as the perfect preparation for the Commonwealth Games later that month.
The move from London has been made necessary by the transformation of the Olympic Stadium into a football venue, and Hampden had been mooted as the probable site of the Grand Prix since last July. The Alexander Stadium in Birmingham will continue to host Great Britain’s other Grand Prix meeting, over a single day in August.
“As part of our new long-term relationship with British Athletics we’re delighted that the 2014 IAAF Diamond League is coming to Glasgow and will be known as the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix,” Sainsbury’s head of sponsorship Tara Hewitt said. “Just last month at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International Match we saw the passion and enthusiasm of the Scottish crowd for athletics, and look forward to seeing this again in July and being part of such a momentous summer of athletics in Scotland.”
Other than the venue being the same, there is no official connection between the Grand Prix and the Commonwealth Games, but the decision to hold the former event at the same stadium as the latter has understandably been welcomed by city officials. “Our reputation as one of the world’s top sporting cities continues to go from strength to strength by staging prestigious events such as this,” council leader Gordon Matheson said.
The timing of the Grand Prix could also help persuade some waverers to take part in the Commonwealth Games. The one-day Herculis meeting in Monaco on 18 July is the only Diamond League event between the two-day Glasgow meet and the Games, where the athletics programme starts on Sunday 27 July and runs until 2 August. However, the Glasgow Grand Prix will also present the Scottish public with the chance to see two categories of competitors who will not take part in the Commonwealth Games: those who opt not to compete, and those who are not eligible.
British Athletics plans to announce further details of the Grand Prix in two to three weeks’ time, once certain arrangements are finalised. Those details are expected to include ticketing prices, how Hampden will be configured for the event, and possibly the names of the first tranche of competitors.
The national football stadium usually has a capacity of just over 52,000 for matches such as internationals and domestic cup finals, but for the Commonwealth Games that number will be cut to around 44,000. The stadium is currently being transformed into an athletics venue, including the installation of a track almost two metres above the usual playing surface.
That work should be completed some time before the Grand Prix, but the capacity for those two days is expected to be somewhat less than that for the Games.
Although at present the agreement to hold one of Britain’s two Diamond League events in Glasgow is for one year only, it is as yet uncertain whether the Olympic Stadium in east London will be ready in time to host a Grand Prix in 2015. Some matches in the Rugby World Cup will definitely take place there in the autumn of that year, and if reconstruction work is finished by late spring there should be time to install a temporary running track. Plans for a back-up venue have yet to be announced, but a successful staging of this summer’s Grand Prix could make Glasgow a frontrunner.