The best athletes gathered in Eugene, the birthplace of Nike

The best athletes gathered in Eugene, the birthplace of Nike

narrative“The Nike Saga” (5/5). It is at the modernized stadium that the Athletics World Championships have been held since July 15, thanks to the dollars of the company’s co-founder Bill Knight. For the brand, the event seems like a homecoming in the city of its birth.

“Tracktown, America”, proudly proclaims a mural from the Interstate-5 freeway toward Eugene. “Capital of Sports” (Track and field, they say in America), the quiet town of Oregon will not be worthy of this nickname when it hosts the World Championships this summer in 2022. Most competitors are already familiar with the athletic field, Hayward Field, where they attend local meetings. Newbies can take advantage of this event to detour to Bree’s Rock, a few hundred meters away: a simple rocky protuberance on the side of the road where athletes from around the world come to deposit a souvenir, basketball, pipe or tank top. ; A place of worship where you gather in front of a plaque emblazoned with the image of Steve Prefontaine, an early 1970s runner and brand ambassador.

Before dying against this rock, one night in May 1975, the mustachioed 24-year-old embodied the rise of jogging and the free spirit of Nike’s early days so well that he became its icon. His tragedy made him the hero of a legend that the company continues to cultivate. Its co-founder, Philip Knight, helped the municipality of Eugene acquire the Breeze Rock parcel of land in exchange for its upkeep. A metal barrier was installed, much to the dismay of purists who dreamed of a less protected site.

Bill Knight is the main financier of the massive stadium operation, which is valued at over $270 million.

Nothing is easy between Bill Knight and his alma mater, the University of Oregon. In the early 1980s, a coach, a former friend of his, Bill Dellinger, gasped when he learned that Adidas was outfitting college athletes with shoes and apparel. Worse still, the man is distilling his expertise to a top German competitor, which in a collaboration will lead to a model of shoes named… adidas Oregon. Later, when revelations about the working conditions of Asian contractors spark student protests in Eugene, Bill Knight stiffens when he finds the college president helpless. He threatens to cut his donations before changing his mind.

Beautiful sports complex

Nike’s founding boss fostered generosity instead. He wants to buy — for the benefit of candidates for Oregon’s Republican Party or his hometown Portland Trail Blazers basketball club. But he reserved the best part of the cake for Eugene and his university. On campus, the library doubles up and bears his name. A modernized law school named after his father and the Phil and Benny Knight Campus to Accelerate Scientific Impact thanks to a $500 million (€495 million) donation by the Knight Foundation await a second building. The amount will change in 2021. Finally, on the edge of Franklin Boulevard in Eugene, is the Matthew Knight Arena., A rebuilt basketball arena in memory of the late son of the brand’s founder.

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