Letter to IAAF President Sebastian Coe: #savetheracewalking

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This is the letter from me to IAAF President Sebastian Coe. I hope with my heart he can help us. Save the race walking, we want racewalking 20km & 50Km, both women and men.

Dear Mr President
Sebastian Coe

Stefano La Sorda speaking, former italian racewalker, member (now former) for many years of LOC in Lugano Trophy (international racewalking event in march every year), now racewalking coach and national racewalking judge in Suisse. My words will be sincere and even if I’m critical, I care about the IAAF as the highest institution of world athletics.  I hope you read my letter, and I apologize with you for my not perfect English language.

The proposals for reducing distances to 10Km and 30Km is useless, dangerous, a big mistake. I will be direct, I also know that I was not politically correct at this time, but someone wants to hit the discipline that I love so much, especially the 50Km. This hurts me inside and makes me furious, so I fight with all in my hands to defend racewalking.

I created specifically savetheracewalking.org website, to protest against this proposals from IAAF RW Committe. Many people also rw champions, rw former athletes, rw kids and young athletes, rw lovers, other athletes and friends have joined the protest. I simply  asked them to help me save the racewalking. I have no advantage or gain in this initiative, they have understood that this is the moment to be united. This is fantasitic, please enter in website savetheracewalking.org , look at our faces, look at our eyes, look at our hands. We are many, but it is not just the number that counts, but the love we have for our discipline that really counts. Racewalking is 20Km and above all 50Km (both men and women), endurance extreme race . Race Walking has an identity, a discipline does not bend to presumed media needs. Many years of racewalking Olympic history can not be ignored.

You will find here the complaints and my explanations on this big mistake that IAAF are about to commit. What I wrote is not just what I think, but what many other people think; I do not want to deceive or indulge you, I just want to tell you what people think outside the IAAF of these absurd proposals.

I think that other people have also expressed to you their opposition to these reduction proposals, that’s because I want to do more and propose alternatives.

What many racewalkers, coaches and racewalking lovers all over the world want is simple:

  1. Keep the current 20km / 50km as the international racewalking distances until after the 2024 Olympics. Both women and men.
  2. Use this extended timeframe to properly test the new shoe insert technology.
  3. Work to enhance the current 20km / 50km events to make them more attractive to the general viewing public, with a a promotional development project.
  4. Visit this issue (if it still exists) again in 2024 once the shoe insert technology has been deemed to work (or not!).

So racewalking for me have 4 big problems:
– Judging (you can read my suggestions here)
– Doping (you have AIU, they are doing a great job)
– Conflict of interest (I am not writing to you about it because there is another urgency now, but I will write to you)
– Promotion

Note that I do not talk about the distances, the distances are fine as they are, especially the 50Km is a beautiful race, extreme, one of a kind, the big real racewalking.

About promotion

There is a lot of work to do. Why the committee instead of investing money on promotion has only thought of the insole? We have many ideas, we are creating a global promotional project, You can see our first ideas here https://savetheracewalking.org/en/phoenix-a-new-project-for-racewalking/
How can you think that reducing distance can promote? Reducing the Km of the marathon will there be more fans? Reducing the tennis sets will there be more spectators? We’re not joking, the real problem is promotion.

I would tell you two episodes from the past that I experienced as racewalking fan.

1) In 2004 I went to Athens to see the 50Km Olympic race. A long journey to discover that the organization had not planned and printed tickets to enter the stadium, that day there were no other events of athletics over 50Km. But some fools organazier felt that the 50Km racewalking was free and only on the road, while the start and especially the finish line were on track. On that day, attempts to enter the stadium were useless. There was also a poor Polish fan who try to deliver to Robert Korzeiniowski the flag of his country before entering the stadium; he was beaten by the police and the great Robert entered the first position without a flag in an empty stadium, the public blocked out, only the coaches with the pass in the stadium.

Do you think that if the race was 30Km the audience would have been bigger or the tickets would have been printed by magic? The stupidity of the organization of an Olympics damaged racewalking, creating a limit and making a clear error. I am disappointed and upset, as Korzeniowski now supports the reduction proposal, after he won an Olympic gold medal in an empty stadium? Here it takes a little respect for the 50Km racewalking, in addition to the promotion it takes men who know how to do it

2) In 2006 I went to Goteborg to see the European Athletics Championships, and naturally racewalking events. Great organization, great promotion. They had expected everything, I could go out and come back to the stadium with the same ticket. It was hard to get close to the barriers to see the racewalking events, there were a lot of people there. In a break I left the race course to walk a bit, I approached a small stadium for football, there was the game, was full of people (I think about 3000 spectators); at the same time, not far away, there was the athletics stadium, and the shouts of the spectators could be heard. Fantastic! How was all this possible? It was easy to understand, the organization of the European championships had made hammering promotion, blow-ups of the athletes on the pillars of the stadium, images of the athletes on garbage cans that invited you to separate the waste, images of the athletes who invited you to use the bus instead of your car, continuous television spots and posters that exalted athletics. What a nice job, why do not we take as an example for the future?

Racewalking needs promotion, from schools to competitions, from getting the rules well known to the public to make promotional events. So if you reduce the distance you do not get anything other than damaging the true essence of our discipline. Will be excluded the athletes of pure resistance and the athletes will decrease because who will race the 10Km will be the same athlete who will race the 30Km. This is not a great solutions, it will also affect the race programs of each nation.

So promotion, also via Internet and social media, is the right way; look the promotions by Decathlon and  Yohann Diniz here https://conseilsport.decathlon.fr/conseils/augmentez-votre-vitesse-en-marche-athletique-tp_35921 and here https://www.facebook.com/newfeel.official/videos/vb.464295850288905/565499320591504/
Yes is to promote a shoe brand. Decathlon think to change the lenght of shoe to promote? NO! This is promotion, communication and advertising. Do you want to treat racewalking as a product? Ok, but do not try to change the product by force, you must first promote it well.

Television time is a ridiculous excuse, there are internet channels, streaming is the future of TV and does not steal anybody’s space (never has racewalking stolen space for any other sport). Do you want to remove the racewalkign from the TV? Do it right away, but give us TV rights and we’ll broadcast everything on the internet, earnings will be reused to self-finance and pay the athletes.

I put myself at your disposal and available to anyone to promote racewalking through the internet, and I will do it for free. Look at the protest campaign I created, in just under a month I took a protest picture from more than 300 people, I set up a website, I took a survey of more than 2000 people, I reached at least 40,000 people with my post on FB (real data taken from the statistics of my FB page). I took some my work time but I did not spend any money. Do not you think it’s a good idea to try and do some promotion in a modern way instead of reducing the race distance?

Dear Mr. President, I would like to write you many other things but I know there is little time, in a few hours you will make a decision. I ask you with my heart in the hand, save the race walking, we want race walking 20Km & 50Km both men and women.

Best regards
Stefano La Sorda
Racewalking lover

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