POSTED: July 25th 2012
JOHN GOODBODY: The next race for Coe will be to run world athletics
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
July 25 - A successful London Olympics will have many consequences. One of them will be the status of Seb Coe, who not only led the bid to get the Games but has been the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the last seven years. During this time, he has exceeded expectations, although, as he would be the first to admit, he has been greatly helped by the appointment of Paul Deighton as chief executive.
Still it was Lord Coe, who picked out Deighton, then working as an investment banker and partner at Goldman Sachs, as a potential candidate and the two have worked wonderfully well together. Lord Coe’s presentational and diplomatic skills, which he partly acquired when he was working as Chief of Staff for William Hague, then leader of the British Conservative Party, have been remarkable and they have been offset by Deighton’s understated command of the thousands of issues involved in staging an Olympics.
However, as they have both recognised, the next fortnight could undo all their work of the last seven years and they will be judged on what happens at the Games. If the event is deemed a success then Lord Coe will be perfectly poised for his next challenge.
This week, he confirmed what has always been expected. He wants to succeed Lamine Diack as President of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) when the Senegalese steps down in 2015.
Lord Coe is already a vice-president and it is believed that he influenced Diack to vote for London, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded London the Games in 2005.
Lord Coe has always been adamant that the athletics track should remain in the Olympic stadium, when the Games finish next month. How could he not when it was a key argument with the IOC members to vote for London rather than Paris in 2005? One recalls Professor Arne Ljungqvist, an IOC member and for 24 years chairman of the IAAF Medical Commission, coming out of the vote in Singapore to say:”We have got a stadium in Paris”(where the 2003 world championships were held)”and now we will get a stadium in London.”
And in 2018, London will host the World Athletic Championships, so it would be entirely appropriate if Lord Coe were then the IAAF President, a post which automatically carries with it membership of the IOC. Lord Coe said this week of the bid for presidency: "I’m ready. I know how to do this. But we have a great president in the post, so it would have to be when he stands down.”
However, hovering over this scenario is the formidable figure of Sergei Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole-vailt champion, another IOC member and also an IAAF vice-president. Bubka has worked diligently on several commissions with both the IOC and IAAF over several years and certainly cannot be discounted. Whereas Lord Coe has been concentrating on the Games, Bubka has been involved on less high-profile but still crucial areas of sport. His worth is known.
If the London Games are a success, Bubka must be hoping that the memories will have faded by the time of the vote in 2015. Seb Coe v. Sergey Bubka. It is a veritable battle between athletic gods.
** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.
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