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Will the Adidas Boost Boston Games Change Track & Field As We Know It?

BOSTON, MA — When the adidas Boost Boston Games get underway this evening, the biggest race may not be at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, although with the likes of Nick Willis, Meseret Defar and the top high school milers in the U.S. on the new stadium track there should be plenty of action to satisfy the most ardent track fan.

But the real race against the clock may be taking place a few miles away in the Back Bay section of the city, as a crew of workers sprints to assemble a world class straightaway on Charles Street, between the Boston Common and Public Gardens, in time for the second section of the event, a “street meet” that begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Considering that the road won’t be closed to traffic until the Friday rush hour ends at 6, the crews from Global Athletics & Marketing, the meet organizers, will have to display Usain Bolt-like speed to get everything ready for the first fans arrival.

A team of surveyors will first take laser measurements of the street, then a steel substructure will be assembled to for a level platform some four feet above street level. Then, a Mondo track, which arrived in two shipping containers from Italy earlier this week, will be placed on top, with lane lines for the 100- and 150-meter races being put down as the final touch. The track will be certified so that any records set will be eligible for verification by the IAAF.

Add in bleacher seats, signage, and TV infrastructure (the meet, as well as highlights from Friday’s session, will be shown live on NBC Sports Network) and it’s obvious there’s a marathon’s worth of work to be done in a quarter mile time frame. “Everything from the track to the television trucks to speakers to portable bleachers for VIP areas to signage has to be choreographed,” said Brett Schumacher, chief of operations for the meet.

The goal of the event is to present track and field in a new way, with the hopes of attracting a new generation of fans. “When we approached adidas with the idea, they said ‘yes, this is really the direction we want to go’,” said Mark Wetmore, Global’s president. In addition to bringing the athletes to the heart of downtown Saturday, on Friday fans will be allowed to stand directly on the track in the outside lanes for the final distance races, closer than they could come in any other sport. A cookout will follow the meet and athletes will mingle with the fans, autographing the thousands of T-shirts that will be given to the first arrivals.

Global organizes the successful New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center in the winter, and for the past decade was behind the adidas Grand Prix meet at Icahn Stadium in New York.

Two years ago they held a pole vault in that city’s Herald Square, no doubt planting the seed for the Boston Games.

When the USA Indoor Nationals were staged in more of a “showtime” format it was widely hailed as the way of the future in presenting track and field and attracting new fans. With near-perfect weather predicted for this weekend, the adidas Boost Boston Games, with its strategy of “taking it to the streets,” could take innovation in the sport, something that’s been sorely lacking, to yet another new and exciting level.