(Reuters) - Athletics’s most prestigious one-day series, the Diamond League, is losing its New York meeting with Rabat, Morocco, replacing it, the IAAF said on Thursday.
Rabat will become the first African city to participate in the 14-meeting series, which offers cash prizes at the end of the season for each discipline, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said.
Organizers of the Adidas-sponsored New York competition say they plan instead to conduct a street event featuring distance and sprint races along with field events such as the pole vault and long jump.
“We believe that changing our focus to a street meet is one way to make the event attractive to a younger audience.” Mark Wetmore, director of the meeting, said in a statement.
The loss leaves the United States, athletics’ top team and most sought after market, with just one Diamond League meeting, the Nike-sponsored Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
It comes at a time when the scandal-plagued IAAF is trying to build interest in the sport in the United States by holding its world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon, this month and the 2021 outdoor championships in Eugene.
Adidas’s chief executive said on Thursday the company was monitoring how world athletics was dealing with a doping scandal while its sponsorship deal still runs, dismissing reports it had terminated the contract.
An independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency found Russia had engaged in widespread, state-sponsored doping and former IAAF president Lamine Diack is under investigation by French authorities after being accused of a cover-up in return for bribes. His family have dismissed the allegations.
Russia is suspended from international athletics and its track and field team will miss August’s Rio Olympics unless it is reinstated.
The New York meeting, a charter member of the Diamond League, had been scheduled for June.
”We’ll aim to carry the momentum we’ve established with the adidas Grand Prix into an event that further supports our brand strategy,” Adrian Leek, general manager of Adidas running, said in a statement.
Street events have been popular in Europe with the City Games in Manchester, England, attracting top athletes including world 100m record holder Usain Bolt.
Rabat’s Meeting International Mohammed VI will be held on May 22.
“This is a proud moment for our country’s athletics community and for the international reputation of Moroccan sport in general,” meeting director Abdeslam Ahizoune said.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Alison Williams