Mobil Corporation will underwrite the presitigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships next Friday at Madison Square Garden, and, beginning next year, will initiate the first official Grand Prix competition in the history of U.S. track and field events.
Harrison Dillard, a hurdler, sprinter and gold medallist in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, said the company will spend about $250,000 on the championship competition next week, including reimbursement of the athletes for travel expenses. Next year, Mobil will put up $50,000 in prize money to be paid to clubs sponsoring athletes who compete in the Grand Prix.
"This is something that track and field really needs," said Dillard, a track advisor to Mobil and director of purchasing for the Cleveland Board of Education. "Since we didn't go to the Moscow Olympics this year we didn't have any heroes coming back. That means it's harder to draw crowds. We've had several track meets fold because costs are so high. This infusion of funds from Mobil may be the saving of this sort of thing."
Government subsidies of amateur athletics are standard in Eastern European countries, Dillard noted, but not so in the United States."It will only improve amateur athletics," he said.
Jimmy Carnes, president of The Athletic Congress, which is organizing the indoor championships said Mobil's sponsorship "will literally pump new life into American track clubs.
"Overall, the need for corporate support for amateur sports has never been greater," Carnes said. "In track and field we want to make up for our absence from Moscow."
Next week's indoor track and field championships will include several of the world's leading athletes competing in 31 separate events beginning at 11 a.m. Among the better known are Eamonn Coghlan, holder of the world's indoor mile record; Don Paige, top 800-meter runner in 1980, and middle distance standouts Mark Belger and Jan Merrill.