A rendering of the new Hayward Field (© University of Oregon)
There are just three days to go until the first Gold standard meeting of the 2021 World Athletics Continental Tour series gets underway, and the setting for the season opener couldn’t be grander.
Hayward Field, venue for the World Athletics Championships Oregon 2022, will host the USATF Grand Prix on 24 April. It will be the first professional competition held at the iconic venue since its renovation was completed, so will double as an unofficial and very early rehearsal ahead of next year’s global championships.
After Eugene, the Continental Tour Gold series heads to the Japanese capital for the ‘Ready Steady Tokyo’ meeting, the official test competition for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Held just 12 weeks before athletics action gets underway at the Tokyo Games, this meeting will provide many athletes with their first look at the state-of-the-art facility that will host the Olympic athletics competition as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
Launched in 2020, the aim of the World Athletics Continental Tour is to create a coherent global tour of the best international one-day meets outside of the Wanda Diamond League, reaching across every continental area. The tour comprises Gold, Silver and Bronze level meetings spanning the globe and held from February to December.
Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s Continental Tour showcased a slew of dazzling performances, highlighted by Johannes Vetter’s mighty javelin effort to register the second-longest throw in history, 97.76m, at the Skolimowska Memorial meeting in Chorzow, Poland in September.
Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser also showed exceptional form in a string of appearances, as the new series proved popular with many of the sport's biggest stars, including Karsten Warholm, Noah Lyles, Sifan Hassan, Dafne Schippers and Christian Taylor.
Once again, the 2021 Continental Tour Gold series will combine some of the sport's most venerable meetings with newer competitions that have already begun establishing impressive traditions of their own in different regions of the world.
On the same day as the competition in Tokyo, the third Gold meeting of 2021 – the USATF Golden Games – will take place in California. Ten days later, the tour moves to Europe for the 60th edition of the Golden Spike in the Czech city of Ostrava on 19 May, and then returns to the US on 23 May for the Adidas Boost Boston Games, one of the top street athletics meetings in the world.
The tour then heads back to Europe for two meetings named after legends of the sport. The Dutch city of Hengelo will host the Fanny Blankers Koen Games on 6 June, then two days later the Finnish city of Turku will stage the Paavo Nurmi Games.
After a break for national championships, the series resumes in Bydgoszcz, Poland on 30 June for the Irena Szewinska Memorial and continues in Szekesfehervar, Hungary on 6 July.
Following the Olympic Games (24 July-August 9) and the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich, the tour will resume in September with stops in Silesia, Poland and the Croatian capital Zagreb before concluding, once again, with the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi, a meeting which made a successful debut in 2020.
Despite some cancellations this year due to the pandemic, 72 Continental Tour meetings – 12 of them Gold – are on the calendar for 2021.
2021 Continental Tour Gold calendar
24 Apr – USATF Grand Prix, Eugene (USA)
9 May – Ready Steady Tokyo, Tokyo (JPN)
9 May – USATF Golden Games, Walnut (USA)
19 May – Golden Spike, Ostrava (CZE)
23 May – Adidas Boost Boston Games, Boston (USA)
6 Jun – FBK Games, Hengelo (NED)
8 Jun – Paavo Nurmi Games, Turku (FIN)
30 Jun – Irena Szewinska Memorial, Bydgoszcz (POL)
6 Jul – Gyulai Memorial, Szekesfehervar (HUN)
5 Sep – Skolimowska Memorial, Silesia (POL)
14 Sep – Hanzekovic Memorial, Zagreb (CRO)
18 Sep – Kip Keino Classic, Nairobi (KEN)