I give today’s inches to my old buddy Pat Rizzo. His opinion is the one that counts. I’m pissed because I saw two of my former WLDR Executive Committee colleagues hanging out at the finish line. What powers swept them out of their responsibilities to the athletes? I hope they didn’t go down without a fight. I know I would not have!
Patrick Rizzo’s facebook post:
“I have been hesitant to post my feedback for the LA organizing committee as some of those people are people I consider friends. I respect their work and the amount of time that goes into creating a championship experience for elite athletes. I also don’t like to be overly negative in my assessments. Sorry ahead of time if anyone construes this as whining or angry; it’s entirely based on 10 years of post-college racing experience and comparison to the previous two Olympic trials I’ve run.
From three months out I was asking my agent when we needed to be in LA. It was already time to start looking into hotels and flights and we didn’t even get information on the date and time of the tech meeting that is mandatory attendance. That correspondence didn’t get delivered to athletes or agents until 11 days before the race, with all deadlines mentioned (hotel, travel submission, etc.) already past. Even then the communications were vague.
Fluid declarations were closed before the qualifying window was over. I’m still VERY confused how you can close the window for declaring intent to use personal fluids on January 13 and still have people qualifying on January 17. Did USATF or the LA committee even think about this?
Fast forward to arrival in LA and “B” athletes staying at the hotel ($300+ per night, three night minimum) would have to pay $15 a person, each way, for a ride to and from the airport to the hotel. I’ve been fortunate enough to compete in three Olympic trials and have never witnessed something so nickel-and-diming unprofessional. Either offer the shuttle for the athletes or don’t but to charge them for it after you selected such an expensive hotel is an insult to injury.
The hospitality suite was the most spartan setup I’ve ever seen in a hospitality at a race. I’ve been to 5k packet pickups that had more amenities. All that was in the suite (aside from USOC uniform check tables) was water, sparkling water, and Powerade. There were no snacks for people traveling into town, no meals provided, nothing that is actually very standard for races, let alone races of this caliber. I would be willing to bet that the Skechers LA Marathon suite even included snacks and hospitality!
We were asked to bring only bottles that included NO commercial advertizements for our personal fluids in order to be compliant with IOC Rule 50. After watching many athletes scrambling to be compliant with tape or bringing whatever they could find, we were provided with bottles that displayed “COKE” in about a 50 square cm size (non-compliant by governing rules). I was also forbidden from filing an appeal for rule violation on that account. I have the appeal still in my backpack, should someone want to see it.
The race occurred under “red flag” conditions. That indicates that conditions are extreme but the competition may go on, though requiring additional safety precautions by both organizers and participants. It was mentioned that a neutral aid station of water and Powerade would be added to the north end of the course. No such aid station was added. It was 5k-7k between aid stations that occurred with personal fluids directly followed by neutral fluids. For safety alone the organizers should have added neutral fluids near USC campus. *Also note for the record, USC’s campus smelled like an uncleaned zoo.
Continuing the race, IF you were fortunate enough to finish, the finish line was indistinguishable. Jared Ward wasn’t the only one who was confused to where the finish line really was. We crossed the finish area 5 times and I still couldn’t recognize it because the posts were so far outside the course and there was not an overhead structure.
As we got through the finish area, we were handed a bottle of water and pushed back into the tent. Little did we know that this would be the last we see water until we get to a hotel! There was no water, Powerade, or food of any form in the finish area for athletes. There WAS, however, a catered, cooled tent for VIPs that athletes could be rudely kicked out of while USATF and USOC bigwigs wined and dined in our misery. Even a third rate race of 50 people has at least bananas and water cups accessible after the race. We weren’t extended such a courtesy. We were given our warm up gear back and promptly pushed out of the anti-climatic finish area like cattle for slaughter.
It has also been reported that the runner tracking went down at about halfway through the race. Even local, low-budget races can get reliable runner tracking. How have we fallen so short in an Olympic trials race? Was this what we were supposed to be showcasing for the LA2024 bid?
All-in-all I have never felt so slighted at a championship race, or any race, in my 10 years of racing post-college. Los Angeles had a chance to really shine, outdo every criticism we may have had of the LOC leading into the race. They could have put on their big city pants and make big things happen. Instead we were the red-headed stepchildren of the weekend. It felt like we were a burden on them all weekend instead of being the show people wanted to see. After all of that we didn’t even get a tee-shirt for qualifying and running in the Olympic trials.
I want to apologized FOR the LOC to all of the young athletes who just qualified for their first Olympic trials race and expected to be respected or at least treated with dignity. This ISN’T the norm and literally every other race you’ll ever run will be better done with you in mind. You all deserve better!”