2012 Olympics Gets Ready with New Meets and Sponsors

For sports fans ready for something other than football, it’s not too early to get ready for 2012 Olympic events. Beginning last weekend, track and field meets are taking place and will be televised nationally.

The inaugural January 28 U.S. Open Track & Field meet kicked things off at Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG) in New York. The event, which had been tape-delayed on ESPN2, featured a number of Olympic wannabes, including sprinter Asafa Powell and hurdlers Da David Oliver and Lolo Jones.

In case you missed that, there’s the February 11 USATF Classic (previously the Tyson Invitational). This will be held at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Both track meets fall under the USATF’s Visa Championship Series and they have both grabbed high-profile sponsors.

For New York, first-time USATF advertisers included technology company Harris Corp. (NYSE:HRS) and Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) along with Chase (NYSE:JPM). Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) will sponsor the upcoming USATF Classic.

But will this draw viewers so early in the season? Average track and field viewership has been off on ESPN (NYSE:DIS) with a 12 percent decline in 2011 while NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fared better with its viewership growing by almost a third, reported the USATF.

Change is Good

Last weekend’s U.S. Open Track & Field represented a huge change in the sport’s schedule after the Millrose Games had been held at Madison Square Garden for more than 100 years. It’s still in existence but it moved uptown to the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory and it will take place on February 11.

This didn’t deter high-caliber athletes from checking out the new U.S. Open Track & Field meet last weekend. Two-time Olympic distance runner Bernard Lagat couldn’t decide which New York Meet to run but because he equated the Millrose Games with Madison Square Garden, he ran last weekend in the new meet.

Lagat wasn’t not fazed by the changes in the USATF track schedule and said that the new events offered athletes an opportunity to prepare at home for the Olympics rather than traveling. He said, “It will be better for the sport. We [athletes] are very lucky in America.”