Petition launched to keep event in Olympics and World Championships

Athletes and fans have shown their support for the 50km race walk, with a petition regarding the event’s future at the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships having been launched.

The creation of the petition follows reports that a decision to remove the event from Olympic and World Championships programmes could be made next week.

The IAAF Council is due to meet in London on April 12-13 and a discussion on competition programmes is expected to form part of the meeting.

The petition states that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has proposed changes to the athletics programme including the removal of the men’s 50km race walk and the switch of the 20km race walk to a half-marathon distance.

However, discussions are yet to take place and the IAAF has advised AW that any of the events on the current programmes could be discussed and reviewed at the meeting, with it being up to the Council to decide which amendments, if any, will be proposed to the IOC.

Both the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships currently offer 50km and 20km race walk events for men and a 20km race walk event for women, though this year’s IAAF World Championships 50km race walk will be open to both men and women.

A decision was made by the IAAF in 2015 to include the women’s 50km race walk as a listed world record event, while female athletes contested a 50km event at the World Race Walking Team Championships last year.

The petition, started by Chris Erickson and signed by more than 600 people at the time of publication of this post, reads in part: “It has recently come to light that the IOC has proposed changes to the athletics programme, starting in 2018. These changes include the abolishment of the men’s 50km race walk at the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships and the 20km race walk moving to a half-marathon distance (21.1km). It is our understanding that the IAAF Council are to vote on these changes at the upcoming Council Meeting in London.

“Olympians, athletes and supporters of the Games firmly believe that the IOC should embrace rather than exclude events such as the 50km race walk … The 50km race walk has been a staple of the Olympic athletics programme since 1932. While appreciating its history, we acknowledge that sport must continually evolve to remain relevant in the modern sporting context.

“Having two men’s events (20km and 50km) and only one women’s event (20km) is based on an outdated and heinously wrong assumption. We commend the IAAF on measures taken to ensure this inequality based on gender is closing and celebrate the first official women’s 50km race walk world record. We want to work with the IOC and IAAF to further develop gender equality and create a programme that best showcases our event for a modern audience.

“We propose that the current schedule of events, men’s 20km and 50km race walk and women’s 20km race walk, be maintained until the Olympic Games in 2020. Furthermore, we propose a working group composed of IOC and IAAF officials and athlete representation to assess the future of the event beyond 2020.”

It adds: “We call on Thomas Bach and the IOC Executive Committee, Sebastian Coe and the IAAF Council, to be transparent in this decision-making process and include the athletes in any further discussions in regards to race walking at the Olympics Games and IAAF World Championships.”

Athletes including Canada’s Evan Dunfee and Britain’s Tom Bosworth are among those to have voiced their thoughts on Twitter.

“It’s pouring rain. I have 30km to do. But I can’t see the point if the @iaaforg is ripping my event from me completely behind my back,” wrote Dunfee.

Bosworth wrote: “I hate to see these things circulated and upsetting many athletes who dedicate their lives to an event. It’d be catastrophic if it were true.”