Is this the end of athletics?

With recent news of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Jess Ennis-Hill retiring, should be we be concerned for the future of athletics?

Usain Bolt has announced his retirement from athletics

London 2012 was meant to be the UK’s crowning glory; to inspire people to get into sports and combat the obesity epidemic. At the start it seemed like it was working; the Great Britain team outperformed expectations, the nation fell in love with stars such as Ennis-Hill, and sports participation rates were higher than ever in 2012.

But for all that talk about ‘inspiring a generation’, the statistics suggest that sports participation has actually been declining – especially in track and field. When you combine these statistics with the athletics  doping scandals and high profile athlete retirements, one could ask; is athletics in big trouble?

Maybe and maybe not.

As has happened throughout the history of athletics, when one star fades, another is born. We may never see another star as bright as Bolt in our generation, but there are plenty of young athletes to get excited about.

Stars like Dina Asher-Smith, Lavai Neilsen and Adam Gemili, who are making names for themselves on the international circuit. Laura Muir is, of course, Laura Muir. Breaking records left, right and centre, the Scottish athlete is taking the world by storm and bringing back the excitement of middle distance running.

There is the still the old guard as well.  Christine Ohuruogu remains staunchly in the game.

Christine Ohuruogu

Away from the professional side of things, amateur athletics and running is also finding the time to shine, albeit away from the ‘traditional’ track and field setting. Inclusive events such as parkrun, and the midnight runners are becoming ever more popular. Record numbers of students are entering LUCA events and demand for new races is evident.

With the IAAF World Championships taking place in London next year, we can hope that the combination of these grassroots movements and provision of exciting big athletics events can draw in the crowds and leave the general population with a thirst for more athletics.

Here’s to the future!

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About Emma Butcher 29 Articles
Emma Butcher is a UCL PhD student.