POSTED: August 19th 2015

NEIL WILSON: Newly elected IAAF President Seb Coe will have to run to get things up to speed

Lord Seb Coe won the IAAF presidency election against Olympian Pole vaulter Sergey Bubka 115 votes to 92 / Getty
Lord Seb Coe won the IAAF presidency election against Olympian Pole vaulter Sergey Bubka 115 votes to 92 / Getty

Seb Coe and outgoing president Lamine Diack / Getty
Seb Coe and outgoing president Lamine Diack / Getty

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) When Sebastian Coe begins his first term as president of the IAAF on August 31, he will be running to catch up.

His predecessor, Lamine Diack, leaves Coe what the Briton described to its Congress as a "solid foundation" but in truth the legacy should have been passed by the octogenarian to the younger man four years ago.

Coe told me in 2010 when he was still chairman of the London Olympic Games organising committee that the time was ripe for change at the top of the IAAF at its 2011 election. He wanted it desperately then, even though it would have meant combining it with the LOCOG role for the first year.

The one stipulation he made was that Diack announce his retirement. He would not stand against him in an election, in part because an incumbent always gets a loyalty vote but more because he believed the Senegalese had earned the right to choose the moment of his going.

For the sport, Diack made the wrong choice. As he told Congress in Beijing after Coe's election: "Perhaps you shouldn't have elected me in 2011. I had already decided to leave. But we decided to continue working together, and to pursue the path that we followed."

In truth, he decided to continue. The Congress was never going to say no to an incumbent president, as Coe knew full well, and so the sport spent another four years in limbo to a man who was too old, too tired and too set in his ways to pursue any path that was radical.

Almost nothing has happened in those four years to push the premier Olympic sport into the 21st century. Cycling caught it up and passed in the fight against doping. Swimming and others left it for dead in its event presentation. Beyond the World Relays in Bahamas, an exciting development, time has stood still.

It was a false start. Coe, like Thomas Bach at the IOC, should propose a time limit to presidencies. Two terms of four years should be enough for any man or woman to make their mark before they run out of fresh ideas.

In eight years time Lord Coe - the first British president since another peer of the realm who won Olympic gold Lord Burghley - will be 67 years old, past the retirement age of most developed nations. It would be a time to go. His manifesto for change is published already in such detail that those years are sufficient to complete it.

 Doping will be at the forefront of his changes, with a new body independent of the IAAF to run that show. More money will be switched from the centre to national federations - $50,000 every year - and the event calendar re-organised to make it more comprehensible.

The first few months will be a rocky road. There are two reports by independent ethics commissions on systematic doping in Russia, created by WADA and the IAAF, to be published. There are more post-analysis results of tests in the 2008 Olympic Games to be announced.

But there is not a shadow of doubt in my mind having known him well for 35 years that Coe is up to the job for which he has spent most of his adult life preparing himself. With it soon will come the added prestige and influence of membership of the IOC as an ex-officio member but that he told me back in 2010 in the offices of LOCOG  was the last thing that mattered to him."Making the changes I believe are necessary to make my sport better is what I am interested in. It's all I am interested in. It is the only job I want," he said.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Olympics · IAAF · Seb Coe · Lamine Diack

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