With seven months to go until its official debut at the European Games Minsk 2019, Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) continues to gain momentum and generate excitement in all corners of the sport.
In addition to sports administrators, athletes are also throwing their support behind the innovative new athletics concept.
During the European Olympic Committees (EOC) General Assembly in Marbella this month, European Athletics Head of New Business Development Marcel Wakim presented the event concept as part of an update on preparations for Minsk 2019. DNA received the backing of the EOC gathering, with only trackathlon not making the cut. All sides are now working to deliver the best possible 9-event programme in Minsk next June.
Inside the athletics family, at the recent 2018 European Athletics Convention in Lausanne, athletes Greg Rutherford, Andrew Steele and Angel David Rodriguez endorsed DNA and other efforts to reach out to new and younger audiences.
Rutherford, an Olympic and world champion British long jumper, sees a huge difference in the current generation of athletics fans and the younger generation, and argues that much more needs to be done to connect to the latter.
“Where we need to innovate, in my opinion, is to bring in the new generation of potential athletics fans. In London recently at Wembley Stadium they had the e-sports world championships – and they sold out Wembley. Then we had the London Diamond League at the iconic Olympic Stadium and we got one man and his dog coming. We’re in a situation where we risk missing the boat by actually not engaging enough with the next generation. If we don’t change, athletics will fall way down the pecking order of sports to watch.”
European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen has stated that DNA is not meant to replace traditional athletics but rather to add to it and enhance the choices for fans. Rutherford echoed that sentiment, saying: “I one hundred percent believe, even though I did very well in my career in the sport of athletics, it needs to be changed or added to at least. We’re getting there. There is something that could be fantastically exciting but it has to start somewhere.”
DNA is a two-hour, winner-takes-all team-based competition comprised of nine athletics events. They are: long jump (women), 100m (men), javelin throw (women), 100m (women), 110m hurdles (men), high jump (men), 100m hurdles (women), a mixed 4x400m relay and the hunt – a distance-medley race where the teams that perform best in the first eight events get a proportionate head start. Unlike traditional athletics, DNA only has one event happening at any given time. Learn more about DNA here.
Portuguese athletics coach Pedro Pinto claims to have been flummoxed by the concept of DNA when he was asked to lead a team at its first trial in 2017. But by the end of the competition, he was a willing convert.
“At the beginning I didn’t understand the competition. I read the rules and read them again and I had a lot of questions and doubts but then the test began and I can tell you it was fun,” Pinto said. “It starts at [a certain time] and two hours later it’s finished. The kids were laughing, having fun and then we went home. I was the first one thinking this is not good and now I am saying it really is a good idea.”
Three years in the making, Dynamic New Athletics was put together based on market research with feedback from a full range of athletics stakeholders, including athletes, spectators, broadcasters and sponsors. DNA will make its official debut at the European Games from 21-30 June 2019 in the Belarusian capital.
The top 30 athletics nations in Europe are scheduled to compete at Minsk 2019. The knock-out tournament will take place from 23-28 June 2019, with four competition days and two rest days. Each team will feature up to 15 athletes and 6 reserves. There will be 30 medals up for grabs in Minsk: gold, silver and bronze for the best team overall, and gold, silver and bronze for the best individual athletes in each of the 9 disciplines.
Steele had a warning for organisers of DNA: be brave going forward and always remain flexible.
“Do not be dismayed if it needs improving from version one, and have a continuous-release mindset that even if this has loads of problems, it doesn’t matter – you have to do something,” he said. “Doing nothing in the sport is not an option, the rot has set in, we need greater virality across social media to attract a younger audience and increase our audience and to get to an entirely new audience.”
Following the European Athletics Convention in October, DNA was also discussed by the European Athletics Athletes’ Committee and received positive feedback. Chair Periklis Iakovakis said that it was “encouraging to see European Athletics taking the brave step to showcase something new for the sport we all love. We are all excited to see it come to life.”
The next milestone for DNA will be the official Minsk 2019 test event scheduled for April.