World Athletics has launched its four-year Strategic Plan today ©World Athletics

World Athletics will launch a new campaign to support those who have discovered the sport in lockdown, during which research indicates that exercise has increased by 88 per cent.

The initiative is part of the four-year strategic plan announced today by track and field’s international governing body, along with new details of the qualification system for the Tokyo Games, for which next year's World Relays, in Silesia, have been confirmed as a qualifying event.

The plan – full details of which will be available at the end of June - has been discussed today in three online meetings involving the World Athletics President, Sebastian Coe, and representatives of the 214 member federations.

Noting that the World Athletics headquarters has been opened this week after an 11-week closure, Coe said: "Over the next few months we have an unprecedented opportunity on the back of the increased physical activity of people in lockdown.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, pictured at the Council meeting in March, says the sport will act to enourage and support those who have taken up running and walking during the coronavirus lockdown ©Getty Images
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, pictured at the Council meeting in March, says the sport will act to enourage and support those who have taken up running and walking during the coronavirus lockdown ©Getty Images

"The latest research from runrepeat.com shows that exercise has increased by 88 per cent during lockdown and running and walking has topped the tables.

"We need to inspire these people to continue the habits they have learned and we will with our own campaigns but also by embracing campaigns that many others in our sport are driving."

One of the key elements of the plan, entitled Fans, adds: "We have continued to engage with our community through the innovative [email protected] and the Ultimate Garden Clash projects, and we will soon launch a campaign to encourage and assist those who have discovered our sport through running during lockdown to continue to stay fit and healthy as the world emerges from the pandemic."

The plan adds: "By 2024 our aim is to grow our broadcast reach, double our digital following and create a database of one million known fans who actively choose to connect and engage with us and our sport."

Meanwhile time periods announced in April have been confirmed for the Olympic qualification process once it starts again from December 1, following World Athletics’ decision to suspend it from April 5 because of the pandemic.

For marathon runners and 50 kilometres race walkers, the period to register entry standards and world ranking performances will continue until May 31, 2021 – just under two months before the Games that had to be re-scheduled from this summer are due to begin on July 23.

For competitors in all other events, including the 10,000 metres, 20km race walk, combined events and relays, the window of opportunity will last until June 29.

Marathon runners who have not already qualified via the 2019 Doha World Championships or World Athletics Gold Label and Marathon Major Series races already held can earn places as finishers in the top 10 at Platinum Level races or as winners of Gold Label races.

With regard to relay qualification, those nations not already qualified after the World Championships can do so by placing in the top eight at the World Athletics Relays Silesia 2021.

This is the first time the World Relays, normally a World Championship qualifier, will offer Olympic places.