Melbourne - The
athletics world is hoping to cash in on the success of cricket's
high-octane Twenty20 format with a new team event spearheaded by Usain
Bolt which starts Saturday in Australia.
The inaugural Nitro Athletics in Melbourne, which will also be held
on February 9 and 11, features non-traditional events such as
middle-distance and hurdles relays.
World 100m record holder Bolt said on Friday: "We just want to make
it more exciting so I'm looking forward to seeing the crowd reaction to
what we are doing."
Twelve events each evening will include an elimination mile, where
the slowest runners are knocked out after each lap until three
competitors contest the final circuit.
Male and female runners will also accumulate team points in a 60m dash, the 150 metres and a 2x300m relay.
Bolt will be supported by US Olympic hurdle champion Kerron Clement and sprinter Asafa Powell to try to draw in the crowds.
"I think it's going to be great, it's going to be like cricket, but Twenty20," Bolt said on Thursday.
The format sees an 'All-Stars' team captained by the Jamaican
sprinter compete against teams from Australia, China, Japan, England and
"Hats off to you guys for being brave enough to step out of the box
that athletics has found itself in for donkey's years," England's
captain and 2008 Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu said.
Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash League smashed spectator and television
viewership records this season pulling in families and younger
Crowds averaged 30 114 a game, Cricket Australia said.
Athletics Australia chief Phil Jones said there was a need to lift
spectator and sponsorship interest in athletics outside the Olympics and
"We have a number of backers," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The concept is supported by International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe.