Subscriber OnlyAthletics

Paris and Rome shrink appeal of indoor athletics season

Olympic Games and European Championships taking obvious priority for the likes of Ciara Mageean and Rhasidat Adeleke

Even without World Athletics further confusing matters by relabelling it in part as “short track”, there will be something abridged about the new indoor athletics season. Certain events in Paris and in Rome later in the year will make sure of that.

While the domestic season reawakens this weekend with the National Indoor League in Athlone, all international focus is building towards the World Indoor Championships, set for Glasgow on the first weekend of March (1st-3rd). Although it appears these won’t be as globally attractive as they might have been in other years.

There were two reminders of that this week: on Monday, the 2024 Olympics in Paris declared 200 days to go; on Tuesday, the 2024 European Athletics Championships in Rome declared 150 days to go. For some athletes looking to make their mark in one or both of those places, Glasgow is already being perceived as an unnecessary detour.

Ciara Mageean has already made that clear. Currently at an altitude camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, she spoke recently about her indoor plans for the new season and Glasgow will be a long way from her priorities, despite it being just a few hours drive from her usual training base in Manchester.


Mageean ran one indoor race last year, in Boston in February, and didn’t finish it. Still recovering from a peroneal tendon tear in her foot, she instead gradually returned to training and ended up running the best times of her life – breaking Irish records in the 800m, 1,500 (twice) and the mile.

“The indoor season last year was a write-off of me,” she said, “but it was a turnaround for the rest of the season though. Because I had a really good summer off those circumstances. So do you draw some correlation from that? Or might I have had an even better summer if I’d had a good indoors season?

“But it’s probably one of the main reasons I’m not putting any focus on the coming indoor season. I’ll run a few races, because I’ve put some good work in already, and it’s nice to keep your head in that game, keeping in touch with your nerves, and that feeling.

“But the only focus next year [2024] is the Olympics, in Paris, and going there in the best possible shape that I can be. Everything before that is just lead up, on that pathway to Paris.”

It’s a similar scenario for Rhasidat Adeleke. After signing a professional contract with Nike last summer, she’s no longer eligible for NCAA competition during her final year at the University of Texas. She too will probably race indoors on the US circuit over the coming weeks. Glasgow, however, is a more unlikely option, depending too on the priority of her coach, Edrick Floreal.

Along with Mageean and Adeleke, five further Irish athletes have automatic qualifying times for Glasgow; Sarah Lavin (60m hurdles), Sarah Healy (1,500m), Israel Olatunde (60m), Andrew Coscoran and Luke McCann (both 1,500m). Several more are in qualifying quota positions.

The presence of a European Athletics Championships this year, set for the Stadio Olimpico in Rome from June 7th-12th, takes further focus away from the indoor season, and are likely to appeal to Mageean and Adeleke. The last European Championships, originally scheduled in Olympic year 2020, never happened because of Covid-19.

The slightly shortened six-day championships, staged 50 years after Rome last hosted them in 1974, also present one of the final Olympic qualifying opportunities before Paris. So far 13 Irish athletes have qualifying standards, and the relay presence will also probably be strong.

The coming months are then further complicated by the World Cross-Country Championships in Belgrade on March 30th (offering Paris qualifying spots in the 10,000m), and the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas on May 4th-5th (where most remaining Paris relay qualifying spots will be decided).

On the matter of relabelling indoor athletics as “short track”, first announced last May, World Athletics have clarified this will only affect the statistical side of the sport, and that “further decisions are yet to be made as to abbreviations and language to be used”.

2024 key Athletics Championships dates

February 17th-18th: National Indoor Championships, Abbotstown

March 1st-3rd: World Indoor Championships, Glasgow

March 30th: World Cross-Country Championships, Belgrade

May 4th-5th: World Athletics Relays, Bahamas

June 7th-12th: European Championships, Rome

June 29th-30th: National Athletics Championships, Santry

July 26th-August 11th (Athletics August 1st -11th): Paris Olympic Games

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics