LONDON (Reuters) - A new World Cup event featuring eight leading athletics nations and intended to attract a wider audience to the sport will take place in London this year, British Athletics said on Monday.
Britain and the United States will compete along with South Africa, Poland, France, China, Germany and Jamaica in the inaugural World Cup from July 14-15 at London Stadium, venue for the 2012 Olympic athletics events and last year’s world championships.
“This is one of the exciting innovative events we are seeing in our sport and our thanks go to British Athletics and the Mayor of London for creating it and hosting it,” International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
“We have 8 lanes, 8 top nations, 8 teams and a host of world class athletes lining up in each event to win the trophy and prize pot. This will be a fast-paced and exhilarating experience for athletes and fans.”
One male and one female athlete from each nation will be selected for every field event and each track race up to 1500 meters, with the total prize pot set at $2 million over two evening sessions.
UK Athletics Chairman Richard Bowker said the World Cup event was an extension of the original idea to host a competition between Britain and the U.S.
Because other countries were keen to become involved an eight-country format was devised to extend the sport’s reach to a new audience.
“The two sessions will be in the evening, under lights with straight finals. There will be no heats or rounds so it should be even more exciting,” he said, adding that it might become more than a one-off.
“We hope this can become a major event. The best way to do that is to ensure the success of his first edition,” he said.
Bowker defended the timing, which was criticized by British athlete Kelly Sotherton on social media for clashing with soccer’s World Cup final and Wimbledon tennis finals.
“We were obviously aware of the dates,” said Bowker, pointing out that organizers were constrained by the stadium sharing arrangement with Premier League soccer club West Ham United.
“There is limited availability. We know the World Cup Final happens in the afternoon, UK time, so we would say that everyone can come along afterwards. What a fantastic weekend of sport that will be.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond