When the Diamond League replaced the Golden League meets back in 2010, its intent was to bring major track and field meets to countries outside of Europe. This year, four of the 14 Diamond League meets--Doha, Eugene, NYC, Shanghai--took place in non-European countries.
But none of that is particularly important. What is important is that Diamond League meets take place in cities. Although all the meets are hosted on standardized 400m tracks with similarly standardized facilities for field events, these meetings are situated in particular cities. Why does this matter? Well, the weather in Doha is pretty much worse for running that any other Diamond League city. The food in Rome is probably better than the food in Birmingham.
Most importantly for the purposes of this weblog and its readership is that the host city likely will play a significant role in the track fan's calculus of whether or not to travel to attend a Diamond League meet. But who has the time to research every city to properly make this decision? Not many people, is who.
Fortunately, I, armed with Wikipedia as a resource, was able to conduct this research, the results of which are captured in the power rankings that follow the colon:
14. Doha: Doha often serves as a bit of a punching bag among major global cities and for good reason. The temperatures are too hot for most any outdoor athletic competition and most historical buildings, according to Wikipedia, have been demolished to make room for new construction. Its "Culture" section on Wikipedia is shorter than a Casualties song.
13. Shanghai: The most populous city in China is likely too populated to make a relaxing tourist destination. The pollution is described as typical for major Chinese cities which essentially means that the air is unbreathable. The following is the second sentence in the Wikipedia "Culture" section for the city:
It was in Shanghai, for example, that the first motor car was driven and (technically) the first train tracks and modern sewers were laid.
All the infrastructure fanatics have likely already booked their flights for next year's meet, but seeing the first Chinese sewer just isn't high on my list of priorities.
12. Lausanne: I am ready to admit that this is ranked far too low. An united sentence on Wikipedia notes that it is the smallest city in the world to have a rapid transit system. If this is true, that is a really cool fact. Culturally, it seems that the city had a pretty extensive collection of historical buildings, but the key to a good city is a mix of old and new. The Wikipedia page gives no indication of new stuff to balance the old.
11. Monaco: The culture section for Monaco on Wikipedia is reprinted below in full:
Monaco has an opera house, a symphony orchestra and a classical ballet company.
The track meet at Monaco might well be the best of the 14 Diamond League meets, but if that is all the country has for culture, it's not worth the travel.
10. Birmingham: We've now crossed over into the tier of cities that seem worth visiting. It seems to me that you can't go wrong with any of the top-10 cities here, but that you can mostly only go wrong with the bottom four cities. Birmingham has a vibrant nightlife and musical scene. Its orchestra is supposedly very good and it also is the home of Duran Duran and Black Sabbath. Why is it this low on the list? Its architecture is primarily from the Industrial Revolution, which really isn't that cool compared to the cities ranked higher.
9. New York City: NYC is the distinctive American city, yet it is not the highest-ranked U.S. city on this list. Because of its size, New York basically has (at least) a little bit of everything culturally from great food to any kind of music you want. Architecturally, it has iconic structures like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. It is brought down because American cities have a much lower ceiling than European cities simply due to the age of the country.
8. Eugene: Nike has pounded down our collective throat that Eugene is Track Town, USA. Because it is the home of the University of Oregon and Hayward Field, it is the site of much American track and field history. Pre's Rock and Pre's Trail are must sees for anyone who ran track in high school. For track history alone, it ranks as the top U.S. city on this list.
7. London: London is without a doubt a great city to visit. But, for the purpose of visiting for a track meet, it is subpar due to the propensity of rain to occur within its limits. We saw the effects of that this year at the London meet, but even more concerning is the fan experience of sitting out in the rain to watch a track meet. As a great American philosopher once posited, "ain't nobody got time for that."
6. Oslo: Another city that I wanted to rank higher, but the competition was too stiff to allow. Oslo distinguishes itself with its Viking museums. There is an entire museum dedicated to Viking ships. Probably unrelated to its Viking heritage, Oslo is also where the Nobel Peace Prize is given out each year. If you're not down with peace, you might rank Oslo much lower.
5. Zurich: City ordinances limit construction of tall buildings in many sections of the city, which has allowed for the preservation of many historical buildings. The coolest thing I could find about Zurich is their public art exhibits. Basically, they announce a theme and put sculptures related to that theme throughout the city. Past themes have been teddy bears and giant flower pots.
4. Brussels: The Manneken Pis, a statue of a toddler peeing, is described by Wikipedia as a symbol of the city, which raises legitimate questions about its high ranking here. But, its locations within Belgium gives it a huge boost in the major food groups of beer and waffles, which makes it a very important and rewarding place to visit.
3. Stockholm: I alluded to a preference for a mixture of old and new architecture and Stockholm provides that. Because of a project started in 1994 to provide a fiber-optic network for the entire city, none of Stockholm's residents have to deal with Comcast. That alone provides a compelling argument for the top spot in these rankings. It may rank #3 here, but due to the syndrome that bears its name, Stockholm residents likely would rank it #1.
2. Rome: These final two cities require little in the way of explanation. Rome obviously possesses the historical chops to hang with any city on this list. Additionally, Italian food is a staple in the diet of any self-respecting runner out there. Vatican City, a country, is located within the borders of Rome, a city. I'm not exactly sure what that means for Rome in terms of these rankings, but I do know that whatever that may be is good.
1. Paris: If you're traveling to a Diamond League meet for vacation, it will be exceedingly difficult for you to pick a better meet than Paris. In fact, if these rankings are to be believed, it will be impossible to find a better meet to attend for the purposes of vacationing. In terms of climate, the average temperature of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months makes for good track and field spectating weather. It is home to the most famous art museum--the Louvre--and piece of artwork--the Mona Lisa--in the world. You might have read about them in the DaVinci Code. In terms of architecture, Paris has never been destroyed in a war, which is handy when it comes to maintaining old buildings. Its fashion scene is highly regarded, but mostly, I think it's just weird. Conversely, one of my favorite philosophers, Gilles Deleuze, taught in Paris. I regard him highly, but most people think his work is just weird.
So there you have it: the Diamond League cities ranked in terms of how desirable they are to visit. Feel free to question their validity in the comments and share your personal rankings.