Seb Coe, photo by PhotoRun.net
In a tightly contested election, Seb Coe won his bid for the presidency of the IAAF. His closing words to the IAAF Congress, just prior to the election was that this could be his “last race,” and it was up to the Federations. Coe handled the election with grace and style. Bubka congratulated Coe on his win. In the end, the battle royale staged by the two candidates was good for the sport.
Now, comes the tough part: governing and affecting change in the world’s oldest and greatest sport.
Seb Coe wins the IAAF Presidency, by Larry Eder
Beijing, China. August 19, 2015. 1:55 PM local time
The most watched event this week has just finished up, and it is time to
write about it.
For much of the last year, Sergey Bubka and Seb Coe have travelled the world,
speaking to the member federations and key players in the sport. What was on
the table, was, quite frankly, the future of the sport of athletics.
When the late Primo Nebiolo, sitting in a bar in Moscow, told the late
James Dunaway in 1980, that the IAAF would have a world championships that
would challenge the Olympics, Dunaway told me that he thought, just
perhaps, Primo had been drinking a bit. Under Nebiolo’s leadership, the sport
went professional, with sponsors, big heroes, big meets and the insidious growth
of drugs in sports.
I am not sure if Nebiolo really comprehended the issue of drugs in sports. Surely,
he and Samaranch did not get it until the Ben Johnson story was spilled in 1988. The
hushed tones of drug cheating has become an overwhelming stench that the sport has to
take head on.
The sport of athletics, as Seb Coe noted, has been around for 33 centuries. Children ran
races around the city of Sumer thousands of years ago. An event like the high jump dates
back to the third century before the common era. And throwing big things, like stones,
logs, you name it, well that has been around, probably before even the development of
That is our blessing and our curse. I believe that the sports of athletics is so well known,
that the public sees it as one of the pure sports. That drug cheating is involved in running,
jumping and throwing hurts the sport to its core.
Seb Coe gets that. He also understands what it takes to bring money into big events,
deal with the media, encourage athletes and find a team who can manage all of the programs
that one starts. That is what Coe did in London.
The battle between Coe and Bubka was a battle of new and old. Sergey Bubka is both
charming and capable politician. The 115-92 vote attests to that. Bubka will champion
causes as a VP of the IAAF, from new events to new ways to attract new fans. Bubka wants
to be involved with the sport. If he did not win the Presidency, he still has chance as VP, which he was duly elected.
Seb Coe made it clear that he was putting it all on the line. If he had not won, some of his supporters told me he would be out on the first plane.
Coe’s speech to the IAAF Congress was a masterful one. He thanked Lamine Diack, but also noted that his bid for IAAF president was the job he had trained for his entire life. Coe also noted that he would be sharing the leadership of the sport. Coe made it clear that without the federations, the sport was nowhere.
And he was right.
Our sport is at a cross roads. The oldest sport in the galaxy needs to up its game. Coe is calling for an independent drug agency, a more focused calendar, monies to the federations so that they can do their game, and increased global dollars.
Brendan Foster, a close friend of Seb Coe’s told RunBlogRun: ” We are really fortunate to have a politician of Seb’s stature focus his energies on our sport.”
For the first time, in a long time, I believe that the future of athletics is truly
in good hands. Seb Coe, in his final speech prior to the election that the IAAF presidency is his “final race.”
We are most fortunate to have his leadership.
Not that it will be easy. British media will be all over him, everyday, and he knows that.
But Seb Coe has goals for his sport. And those goals, he noted, will be shared even more in the days to come.
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