Hayward Field at the University of Oregon
The 2022 World Athletics Championships
Top Three Final Medal Count:
USA 33 Medals (13 Gold 9 Silver 11 Bronze), Ethiopia 10, Jaimaca 10
Hayward Field was built in 1921 but thoroughly renovated in 2021. The track and field (or Athletics) stadium sits on the campus of the University of Oregon. It seats about 12,000 but easily expands to 30,000 with the addition of metal bleachers. The architecture of the stadium is beautiful, with an appropriate combination of steel, wood, and glass. Oval in nature, and with concourses of rubber track floors, I even my old bones felt fast walking to the plentiful water stations. The athletes must feel the same when they get to the starting line. Purpose built for track and field only, this stadium makes no concessions to other sports. No trying to squeeze in a football or soccer field, this is all dash and no trash. The infield is well designed to host multiple field events at the same time.
Almost every seat gives you a great line of site, although depending on the field events, you may have to rely on the two large video boards. The larger one is big enough to show video from two different events at once, with leaderboards, times, etc. The second one is a little smaller and that is slightly regrettable as the architecture of the curved ceiling overhang could have easily accommodated a larger board. It is a minor complaint. Overall, it works very well because there are times when you must keep your head on a swivel to watch all the events going on at once, with your eyes moving from the high jump pit to the track and then to infield to catch a hurtling discuss. The seats are some of the most comfortable I have sat in, with solid seatbacks and thick seat cushions. They are different shades of green and the aesthetic is right on the mark. The concessions in stadiums are your usual stadium fare, popcorn, hotdogs, pizza, and the like. This is supplemented by more local vendors directly outside the stadium but still within the stadium ground, to give you more options. The only miss in the stadium was the lack of sunscreen stations. It may be great Northwest, but the sun still fried my kneecaps on day one. It was the one spot I forgot to cover with sunscreen.
The University of Oregon is in Euguene. While in a beautiful spot, with only an hour to the ocean in west and the mountains to the east, it is still not the easiest to get to. There is a small airport in Eugene, but you might end up driving in from Portland. It is a quintessential college town and hotels can be booked up early so plan accordingly. We stayed at an Airbnb, which while the best option for a group of eight, was not without its challenges. It, however, was only four blocks from the campus and allowed us to walk back and forth to the stadium easily. The town has some public transportation and lots of bike lanes. With a rich history of running both on and off the track, the home of the Ducks is also rightly referred to as Track Town, USA. With numerous running trails in and around the city, it is an apt description. If you are active, you will find plenty to do in Eugene. The more sedentary will find limited options, although the Raptor Center just out of the city is worth checking out.
I was at Hayward Field to see the first four days of the World Athletics Championships, or Track and Field as we ‘Yanks call it. The venue is absolutely right sized for the event. While the one morning session we attended was lightly attended, the evening sessions were rocking, and you could tell the athletes were feeding off it. The European announcers did a nice job of managing any lulls, which were rare. On the contrary, in the evening the frenetic pace made me miss a couple of moments. As an example, the U.S. Women’s leader in the discus, Valarie Allman came into the event as number one, but had fouled on her first two qualifying attempts. It would be huge if she did not qualify. However, as she was warming up for her third throw, our whole group got caught up in watching the high jump finals and the introduction of the Men’s 1500 finalists. When we heard a huge roar for Japanese miler’s introduction, we were confused. We turned to the infield to see that Allman had uncorked a huge throw. We all shook our heads that we had missed the moment.
This was my first legitimate “World” event. I had been to some international events like the Pan Asian Games and I had played in some fastpitch softball tournaments in Europe that had teams from all over the world. This, of course, was a whole different level of athlete. I like events like this because you can bump into world class athletes at restaurants and gas stations. They are unmistakable: young, fit, and confident. Well that, and you don’t often see five Ethiopians together in the U.S. unless you are at taxi que at La Guardia. However, the performances in the arena were no joke. It was one amazing effort after another. Some were tragic, like the U.S.’s Devon Allen false-starting in the final of the 110 hurdles – it was deemed he was 0.001 second off the acceptable anticipation range of the electric start. Or emotionally inspiring, like Yasmine Al-Dabbagh running for Saudia Arabia without a hijab. Or simply awesome as in the U.S. men sweeping the 100 meters. Above all, it highlights the beauty of sport, that nothing is guaranteed and the amazing and wonderful can happen – over and over again.
It was a family affair for this event, with my dad, my brother and my nephew all attending the Championships. Add to that our spouses and one of my sons joining in for the visit, and we were quite the crew. We certainly tested the limits of the old house and its two small bathrooms. What it offered in location was offset by a finicky fuse box and way too old windows. Our efforts to enjoy the cool Oregon night breezes were constantly foiled by windows that were made more of paint than wood. My son was in a boot with a leg fracture, so our planned hikes were limited to him gamely hopping and skipping around Eugene. To his credit, he never complained. Thankfully, Eugene is walkable. Lastly, in an attempt to support the U.S. rail system, we flew into Seattle and took the train down to Euguene. We thought it would be a nice little adventure. It was not. I loved taking the Acela when I lived back east, but this northwest route was for the birds. Half hour late arrival on the way down and an hour late on way back. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has his work cut out for himself.
In the end though, all of this was minor. The weather was great, the venue beautiful and the athletes fantastic. We had so much fun we already started making plans for our next big event. Thanks for the memories, Hayward Field. It was a blast. Paris Olympics here we come.