The trail-blazer laser show

Britain plans to lead world in transforming the face of athletics

Laser beams across the long- jump pit, flashing lights illuminating the path and pitch of the javelin, and the 100m track stretched across the centre of the stadium rather than down one side of it. Such is the shape of athletics to come.

Laser beams across the long- jump pit, flashing lights illuminating the path and pitch of the javelin, and the 100m track stretched across the centre of the stadium rather than down one side of it. Such is the shape of athletics to come.

Plans are already being made for Britain to pioneer some of these dramatic innovations in the first major events to be held here in the new millennium: the European Cup at Gateshead in July and the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Former Olympic stars Alan Pascoe and Sebastian Coe are behind the revolutionary moves which would transform athletics into the most spectator-friendly sport in the world. Last week Pascoe, the former Commonwealth gold and Olympic silver hurdling medallist, conferred with stadium officials in Gateshead about ways of "jazzing up" next year's European event, while a few days earlier in Monte Carlo double Olympic 1500m gold medallist Coe talked informally with officials of the International Amateur Athletics Federation about how the sport must meet the challenges of the new century with fresh ideas and new impetus.

Pascoe and Coe are managing director and chairman respectively of Fast Track, the marketing arm of British athletics. The past two years have seen an athletics revolution off the track in Britain, with suits and blazers being replaced by former illustrious competitors such as David Hemery and David Moorcroft, who now oversee UK Athletics.

Pascoe, the principal driving force behind the proposed shake-up, wants to see vigorous changes in how athletics is both performed and presented. He has drawn up a blueprint of ideas which has the backing of Coe and many other big names in the sport.

The most controversial suggestionis the staging of all the sprint events on an eight-lane track stripped, either vertically or diagonally, across the infield. Like the perimeter track, which would still be necessary for middle- and long-distance events, the lanes would be multicoloured. The long jump, triple jump and pole vault would also be moved to centre stage. Pascoe explains: "It has always been frustrating for spectators on the far side of the arena not to get a proper view of these events. The solution is to hold them in the middle so that everyone gets a full view.

"As far as the 100 metres is concerned, the track would have to be laid under a palletised surface, so that the grass pallets could be removed whenever required - rather like the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Because of the number of heats and finals for both the men's and women's sprint and hurdles events, the timetable would need to be substantially revised, but this is quite workable. The 100 metres might also have to marginally overlap the perimeter track, and all these things can be looked at and overcome.

"And the day has to come when, particularly in the jumping events, you get an instant reading so that spectators know immediately what happened and whether or not a record has been broken."

Pascoe envisages a laser beam across the pit ("surely possible in this technological age"). He also thinks a similar technique could be used for the longer throwing events, notably the javelin and discus. "When Steve Backley runs up and throws, you should be able to know immediately whether it is 89.5 metres or whatever."

He suggests that, in international events, national flags mark the distance of the throw, and on top of them, flashing lights indicate the competitor's best throw. He believes that this will be one of the changes put into effect in Gateshead next year. "You certainly won't have the plethora of lines that make the field seem like a tram station. It is not just world records, but realising the closeness of the competition, which sends a tingle down people's spines."

Pascoe says that most of the short-term changes will be in the way certain events are presented. In the high jump and pole vault, for instance, competitors will have the opportunity for six jumps, but they will need to be more selective in picking when to opt in and out. They won't be able to keep going back for a second or third chance.

According to the Pascoe plan, major events of the future will feature two giant video screens at either end of the stadium, operating independently of the scoreboard so that spectators can follow more than one event at a time. "The name of the game now is making detailed information about every event available simultaneously."

Music, colour and pageantry will be part of the presentation package in Gateshead and at all future UK events. The accent, says Pascoe, has to be on speed, continuity and excitement, and programmes will be compressed into shorter timespans. "One of the fundamental aims is that the presentation in the stadium has to be synchronised with that of television," says Pascoe. "At the moment we are running the two in parallel, feeding off each other but ultimately there has to be one presentation. If say, Roger Black is presenting on television, then he will also be doing so in the stadium."

Pascoe predicts that, given IAAF approval, the large majority of these innovations will be in place internationally by 2005, when London hopes to stage the World Championships at a rebuilt Wembley. This is one reason why he is personally in favour of the portable track idea so vehemently opposed by the Sports Minister, Kate Hoey, and other traditionalists. "Providing this sort of track is the perfect opportunity to bring in these ideas. It would also create the bullring atmosphere with the crowd right on top of the action. People want value for money, not just in athletics but sport generally. Athletics has suffered by being pushed around by football, and the parameters of soccer are such that it is now beyond the reach of any other sport. But we have to compete; last year all our major events were sold out and the signs are that the coming season, in which we will have 10 televised events and the European Cup, will be similarly successful."

Although Coe disagrees with Pascoe over Wembley - he is among those who argued for a permanent track from the start, despite the soccer-first stance of his Chelsea chum Ken Bates -- Coe concurs that major changes are needed to keep athletics as a front-runner.

"The sport has to keep pace with the demands of the spectators. The days when you went into a stadium at seven and left two-and-a-half hours later without a proper explanation of what had been going on have gone. You've got to market and package it properly, recognise that public needs have to be embraced. To prosper, athletics has to compete in what is a very, very competitive market."

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?