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Baton Passes from Doha to Eugene

October 24th, 2019 by dk

All eyes in the world of track competition will be on Doha, Qatar this weekend, as the planet’s premiere athletes complete the IAAF’s 17th World Athletic Championships. And then those eyes will turn to Eugene, where the competition — including many of the same competitors — will take place in 2021.

Phil Knight, Nike and Eugene shocked the world on April 16, 2015, when we were chosen to host the 18th World Athletic Championships. The event has never been hosted on American soil before. It will be the world’s largest sporting event of the year, attracting athletes, fans and journalists from 214 countries.

Preparations began immediately. An experienced executive was hired to guide those preparations. Committees were formed to explore any anticipated deficiencies — housing, transportation, infrastructure, public safety. Money is being raised to pay for necessary improvements.

Entrepreneurs are investing millions in new hotels and amenities for visitors. Hayward Field is being rebuilt to become the epicenter of a worldwide stage.

After Doha concludes on Sunday, thousands will turn their focus to Oregon21 in Eugene, Oregon. Athletes will huddle with their coaches and trainers to make a plan to become stronger, faster and more flexible. Media companies will begin forming teams to cover the event. And hundreds of local leaders will be enlisted to become great hosts.

Invitations have been sent to civic leaders to hear Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s vision for the event and our preparations. They will meet next Thursday morning.

You can already see the efforts taking shape. Many of the traffic snarls we endured this summer are part of the preparations, as buildings and roads increase capacity. Those efforts will intensify and so will some of the related frustrations. The governor and many others will be coming to town periodically to remind us that it will all be worth it.

Personally, I’m focusing on the immediate benefits we are seeing already. New buildings gleam in the autumn afternoon sun. Muralists are enhancing our older buildings, while construction cranes swivel in the sky to assemble more. Thousands of giant sequoias are being planted in our parks and along roadways. It’s worth reflecting how those trees will someday tower over and eventually outlast the buildings.

The craziness will last only a couple of weeks two summers from now. We’re expecting 50,000 fans to descend on us, ready to watch their favorite competitors from around the world. Thousands of athletes, coaches and journalists will experience Hayward Field magic for the first time. And then they’ll all leave.

But they’ll all take something with them — impressions, memories, pictures.

Literally billions of hours of video will be shot during those few days, from network broadcasts to personal selfies — all with Eugene as a backdrop. The goal is for every image transmitted to somehow capture the essence of Eugene in the background — every street corner, every restaurant meal, every unplanned errand.

Most of that will conclude on August 15, 2021. The competition will wrap up and attention will then shift to Budapest, Hungary, host of the 19th World Athletic Championships. But those images will endure, along with the giant sequoias.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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