THE 'Golden Four' series of meetings, which has brought new riches into athletics in the last two years, threatens to change the face of the sport by forcing officials to offer substantial prize-money at major championships.
More meetings, including London and Lausanne, are keen to join the series which finished on Tuesday with a jackpot pay-out of 20 one-kilo gold bars to the British hurdler Colin Jackson and the American long jumper Mike Powell.
Jackson, the world 110m hurdles champion, and Mike Powell, the world record holder, shared the dollars 250,000 (pounds 160,000) prize for winning their events at all of the Golden Four meetings in Oslo, Zurich, Brussels and Tuesday's finale in Berlin.
It is the simplicity of the annual series, which was introduced for the first time last year, which is giving the Golden Four an edge over the more complicated points system operated in the Grand Prix series. More importantly, with the added financial competition, international officials will be under pressure to follow athletes' demands to introduce big prize-money at major championships including next season's World Championships in Sweden.
'It is not an undue demand that 20 to 25 per cent of the total income from the international federations (from major championships) should go to the athletes,' the Zurich promoter, Res Bruegger, said. 'After all, there would be no meetings or international championships without the athletes.'
A luxury car was given to winners at last year's World Championships in Stuttgart. A lot more will be required next year to make sure athletes show complete loyalty to the world event which now takes place every two years.
Most of the world's top athletes signed up for the 'Golden Four' this season, which is rapidly becoming athletics' elite series. Organisers of other meetings are worried that theirs could become second-rate if they do not try to join up.
London is especially keen to be involved and has a very strong case. Although the four venues are unlikely to change for the 1995 season, Golden Four officials are set to discuss its future introduction.
Organisers are keen to keep the Golden Four marketing tag, which the public are starting to recognise rather than expand the series to five. It could be that the venues may be alternated in the future and London could replace one of the four meetings, the sources said. If that is difficult to arrange, officials will be forced to discuss the possibility of a 'Golden Five'.
Part of London's claim is that ITV has some of the highest ratings for the meetings. With the success of Linford Christie, Jackson and Sally Gunnell, athletics has a very high profile in Britain.
'ITV is a very strong partner with the German company Ufa, which sells the television rights for the series and markets the meetings,' one official said.
Ufa, which is also involved in selling the television rights of the Wimbledon tennis championships as well as the marketing of European football matches, has boosted the viewing figures of the series by broadcasting it in Asia, Africa and the United States, as well as Europe.
Carl Claussen, a Ufa spokesman, said an estimated one billion people worldwide were able to watch the events this season.
Jackson continued his unbeaten run this season to win the 110m hurdles in Berlin in 13.02sec, beating the Olympic champion Mark McKoy in the process, while Powell took the long jump with 8.20m.
But Linford Christie suffered his second defeat in three days, finishing third in 10.02 behind Dennis Mitchell (10.00) and Jon Drummond (10.01) of the United States. There was also a season's best of 44.04 in the men's 400m from the American world champion, Michael Johnson.
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