The Lima Grand Prix has been heralded as a success ©ITG

The quality of the Lima Grand Prix, and the possibility of a "flat" period in weightlifting after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, has led to talk of innovations in the future calendar of the sport.

The lavish event in Lima, which ended last weekend, showcased the sport with groundbreaking television coverage around the world, and was organised "on the level of a World Championships" in the view of Attila Adamfi, director general of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

It was one of the first Olympic ranking events in the third and final six-month phase of qualifying, and one of the most successful of the 62 competitions staged worldwide with qualifying status for Tokyo 2020.

There was prize money of $10,000 (£7,800/€9,000) for every weight category – $5,000 (£4,000/€4,500) to the winner – with bonuses on offer for world records at senior and junior level.

With substantial backing from the Peruvian Government, which is also supporting the IWF Youth World Championships next year and the senior IWF World Championships in 2021, a TV feed was offered free to broadcasters.

This led to live coverage on ESPN and the Olympic Channel, as well as programming in Russia, Spain, Colombia and elsewhere.

It was broadcast live on Peru's main TV station, which was a huge boost for plans to promote and develop weightlifting in a country where it has struggled to gain a foothold in the national sporting culture.

"Weightlifting had never been on television here before," said Renzo Manyari, President of the Peruvian Weightlifting Federation, who was proud of the compliments heaped on the Grand Prix by Tamás Aján, President of the IWF.

Peru had never attracted a single sponsor for the sport either, but for the Lima Grand Prix, in which 17 nations took part, they had 12 substantial backers.

The publicity is invaluable for Manyari, who wants to spread the word and attract youngsters into weightlifting.

He wants to get weightlifting into schools, which has been a key part of neighbouring Colombia's highly successful development strategy, and after the Grand Prix he now has "something to show them, an idea of what this sport is all about".

Renzo Manyari, President of the Peruvian Weightlifting Federation, oversaw the event ©ITG
Renzo Manyari, President of the Peruvian Weightlifting Federation, oversaw the event ©ITG

The Grand Prix was first planned about four years ago, and gained support from the Government and the IWF as a "legacy event" for the Pan American Games, which were hosted by Lima in July and August.

"The Government is investing and keeping the legacy alive," said Adamfi.

"This event was organised on the level of a World Championships, in some instances even higher.

"We haven't had this level of television coverage at a Grand Prix or World Cup before – it's a global promotional thing that shows the Peruvian Government is putting a lot of effort into the promotion of the sport."

When the Olympic Games are over, there will be a two-year wait before qualifying starts for Paris 2024, and the number of competitions on the schedule will look a lot thinner.

Is there a feeling that after such a crowded calendar, everything will seem a bit flat?

"Yes, it could be," said Adamfi, who highlighted some of the benefits of having so many competitions in the 18-month Olympic qualifying period – marketing, promotion and establishing that athletes can compete far more often than some did in the past.

"That's important, because there were so many voices saying it's impossible to compete every two months.

"What we have seen in the qualifying system is very encouraging, very positive."

Filling in that possibly "flat" period is a challenge for the IWF and its Sport Programme Commission.

"What we are trying to think of is a competition system with motivation, maybe with (accumulative) results, or points, and you go to a grand final, you have prize money – something like that but you can only get there if you have a certain number of appearances," Adamfi added.

"Kind of like a Grand Prix circuit, because now it's clear we want to keep this kind of activity.

"Nobody can say now that it's too much for athletes, because they are breaking records, making personal bests while competing a lot of times.

"So far we are seeing the positive consequences of Olympic qualifying and we are happy, but of course we have to sit down after the Olympics and analyse.

"Also not everybody can compete at the Olympic Games, we know that. 

"We wish everybody could be there but we will miss some great athletes for sure. 

"The Games is not about having everybody there, it's about making sure weightlifting is there."

Tom Goegebuer, the Belgian who is athletes' representative on the Sport Programme Commission, said there had been plenty of ideas but not much time to discuss them because of other more pressing issues in the sport.

New formats are up for discussion and there will be a chance to "think outside the box" as well as promoting the traditional core events on the calendar.

In recent years there have been competitions staged on the beach in Israel, in a supermarket in Iceland and in a shopping mall in China.

Tom Goegebuer is the athlete representative on the IWF Sport Programme Commission ©Getty Images
Tom Goegebuer is the athlete representative on the IWF Sport Programme Commission ©Getty Images

There have been "brute strength" showdowns in the United States featuring a weightlifter, Colombian Olympic medallist Luis Mosquera in 2018, American Mattie Rogers this year, a powerlifter, a bodybuilder and a CrossFitter.

"We want to stick to our traditional events, but also people see that we could organise something spectacular between Olympic qualifiers," said Goegebuer.

"Ideas such as a Grand Prix series, new formats, best against the best – we must try to keep attracting attention to weightlifting.

"The early analysis of Olympic qualifying is that it's good: we can see the weightlifters much more than before, there are more videos circulating because international lifts are done more frequently, it's good to have more action, and to see international lifters in small local competitions.

"We're a very traditional sport – many people like it to be quiet. 

"But on the other hand the way things are developing with skateboarding in the Olympics, breakdancing - it has to be spectacular for people to watch, they want to have fun.

"We can try out new ideas, that's the purpose of the Commission, to see if it works and maybe use some.

"My personal experience is that everybody is used to the silence, but I think we should create a good atmosphere – we don't need so much silence, ten seconds maybe.

"We should have louder music, something happening all the time.

"Another personal opinion is that we should not focus only on new competition formats for the superstars – we also need to create opportunities for those who are not yet international lifters.

"CrossFit is doing a really great job by creating international competitions for everyone."