News 10 December 2015

France’s Financial Prosecutor investigating Eugene award

On 1 December, France’s Financial Prosecutor, Éliane Houlette, opened an investigation into an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decision to award the 2021 World Athletics Championships to Eugene, without a bidding process. “At this point, no conclusions can be drawn”, a spokesperson told Reuters. “We considered that there are elements that merit being checked out”.

‘The proposal to award the IAAF’s premier competition to Eugene, bypassing the usual bidding process, was taken in response to what was seen as a unique strategic opportunity to host the IAAF World Championships for the first time in the USA’, read a 16 April 2015 IAAF statement. Eugene is the Oregon city where Nike was founded, leading to allegations that IAAF President Sebastian Coe lobbied former IAAF President Lamine Diack for Eugene to host the event due to his connections to the sportswear manufacturer, which sponsored him for 38 years. Coe has denied the allegations.

In evidence given to the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee on 3 December, Coe said that his predecessor, Lamine Diack, had taken the decision as “the funding arrangements, which I was aware of because of my work as the chair of the evaluation commission, would not hold together for very much longer”. The funding package was put together by TrackTown USA, which describes itself as ‘birthplace of the most storied and respected track and field program on the planet’, on an internet site designed to promote Eugene as a destination for athletics excellence. Coe told the CMS Committee that 2021 was awarded to Eugene due to the financial support package on offer, which was largely supplied through support from broadcaster NBC.

In his evidence given to the CMS Committee meeting, Coe answered “no” to questions on whether Nike was part of the funding package put together by TrackTown, or if it was putting any money in. However, as shown in the picture below, the footer of TrackTown’s internet site clearly shows a Nike logo. Mark Pilkenton, Nike’s Director of Global Brand Culture until August 2015, was also Marketing Director for TrackTown12 (U.S. Olympic Team Trials in ­Eugene, 22 June 22 to 1 July 2012) and Eugene 08 (2008 Olympic trials). Coe today told BBC Radio 4 that Eugene’s bid to host the 2021 Worlds was put forward by US Track & Field (USTF), which is sponsored by Nike.

‘The Eugene proposal […] adhered to all ethical and legal standards for organising, presenting and advocating for our bid, according to IAAF rules’, said a TrackTown statement provided to Reuters. “We are proud of the bid on its merits and strongly believe that the quality and merits of the bid were ultimately the driving factor in the council’s decision on 2021”.

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