Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics, is one the key architects behind Dynamic New Athletics (DNA), the concept he hopes will take the sports world by storm at the Minsk 2019 European Games.
Derived from a desire to capture the attention of a generation used to getting their entertainment in short, sharp bursts, DNA is a two-hour, mixed gender, team-based competition featuring a host of classic athletics events before culminating in the Hunt - an aptly named finale in which mixed medley relay teams go off in a staggered start and chase each other down in pursuit of gold.
Here, Hansen tells the European Games News Service just why he thinks DNA will change his sport forever.
What are the biggest challenges facing athletics right now and how does DNA solve them?
- The biggest challenge is that we are doing fine. This means our traditional product, the European Championships work and are a magnet for spectators and TV audiences, as you could see in Berlin last year (2018 European Championships). However, we cannot stop there, we must be open-minded, innovative and listen to the demands of the digital age and what the new generation is looking for. We believe this is mixed teams, short-form events and unpredictability. We call DNA the hip-hop version of athletics, and it will complement our traditional, classical form of athletics.
Can you give an idea of the work that has gone in to DNA and what you, as President of European Athletics, hope to get out seeing it in action at Minsk 2019?
- We have invested a seven figure amount and worked over three years on the concept with the best people inside and outside our sport. I am looking forward seeing a short-form team competition format that inspires new fans and the young generation of active and passive athletics fans.
Which elements of DNA are you most excited to see in action?
- I am mostly looking at seeing the national teams compete and enjoying this exciting new format. In particular, I am excited to see the Gundersen start (a time staggered start based on previous performances first developed by Gunder Gundersen, a Norwegian Nordic Combined athlete) in the last race, the Hunt, which decides the overall match. And I will carefully observe the new head-to-head (format) in the field events.
Is social media coverage a key part of how you present DNA?
- For us, in the long run, we see that DNA must meet the younger target audience where they normally can be found; on their phones.
What reaction have you had from elite athletes to DNA?
- Of course, we have received mixed feedback for such a revolutionary project. However, once elite athletes understood the heart and soul of the team event they supported it. This does not mean though that they are necessarily competing in it at the first edition in Minsk.
Where do you see the future of DNA?
- The beauty about this project is our serious approach and the in-depth research and expert input we have had. This means we have created a concept that can fit across all levels of athletics. In Minsk you will see the elite, top-event version, but DNA is modular and can be adapted to any level of competition; grassroots, schools, clubs, sub-elite.
What you see in Minsk is not the final product, it is a first expression of where we want to go. A lot of features were not included that have a great potential to excel, for example our assault course event 'track'athlon', the toughest race in athletics. So, there is more to come.