Updated August 3, 2016
The Summer Olympics are a week away, and many are scrambling. I am scrambling over finding housing that not only is secure but that does not take half of the day to get to the Olympic track stadium. I am not worried, at all, about Zika virus. I am worried about getting mugged, and making it back and forth to the stadium without loosing phones and computers. I must say, in the previous Summer Olympics I have attended, being shived for a iphone 6 or 1, for that matter, has not been top on my list of worries.
But that pails in comparison to the eighteen days ahead of Sebastian Coe, the President of the IAAF.
Seb Coe spent much of his formative years as a high performance athlete, coached by his father, and followed at a microscopic level by the British press. The skills he learnt back then, the friends he made, the impressions hard learnt with media, are all there.
And, it is the reason why he survives, and in fact, thrives in times of crisis.
I recall asking Mr. Coe, at the Beijing World Champs about his plans for innovation. Seb was quite confident that he could change things rather quickly. Little did he know that maelstrom that would take over the sport, where Lamine Diack and his family would fill the media of the world, and Coe would be accused of everything but being responsible for global warming. Some worried, even his friends, if President Coe could weather the storm.
But, Seb Coe was persistent and focused. His strengths are his weaknesses and his weaknesses are his strengths. The calm confidence annoys the hell out of some people, but the calm confidence helped Coe weather the proverbial storm.
There are two major issues that Coe has to deal with, and that his legacy will be based on. One is the Russian crisis. Facts are that Seb Coe, in his leadership of the IAAF, has kept the Russian Athletics Federation out of the 2016 Summer Olympics because of their absolutely planned and focused system of doping for their athletes. This was not overnightly done, but a well thought out, supported system of doping to keep Russian athletes at the top the sports world. The pressure that Coe recieved can not be underestimated. President of Russia, Vladamir Putin is a formidable adversary and Mr. Putin is not a happy camper. Many of his finest athletes will not be seen in Rio, and the IAAF is the one who, even as the athletics federation was being buried in the press, stood firm and kept Russia out of Olympic track & field. And, for the world, not NBC’s world, track & field is the biggest draw of the summer Olympics.
As long as Coe stays firm here, and also provides the clear program for Russia to re enter the family of sporting nations, the IAAF will continue to improve its visibility in the world of sports and sporting sponsors.
The IOC has other issues to deal with, too deep and volumnous to discuss here. I will save that for my twenty hours of travel to Rio.
My othe concern for Seb Coe is this. CAS has provided the IAAF with a huge problem, which will be focused, quite unfairly, on Caster Semenya. Due to a lack of understanding, and perhaps a bit of copping out, CAS no longer requires female athletes who have higher testosterone amounts than most of the women that they compete with, to take medication that supresses said testosterone. Caster Semenya will, more than likely, win the 400 meters and 800 meters. She may also break the 800 meter record. One year ago, she could not break two minutes.
How does IAAF deal with this? In Rio, Seb Coe has to walk through some minefields while protecting Caster Semenya from the hateful things said and boos in 2009. He also has to, with his team, show CAS why, for sport to be both fair and clean, standards for testosterone in women’s sports need to be reassessed.
Zika will be long forgotten in Rio, with Russian athletes being banned and the women’s 800 meters, and perhaps 400 meters televised for all the world to see.
For President Coe, he just needs to remember Moscow 1980. Most of what he needs to remember he learnt there, in between his silver medal in the 800 meters and his gold medal in the 1,500 meters.
The sport, hell, the world of sport, needs his leadership.