Coe on a mission to save the sport he loves

Wed Dec 3, 2014 9:16am EST
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - When Seb Coe was at the peak of his powers in the 1980s athletics attracted huge TV audiences and often dominated the back pages of newspapers around the world.

Thirty years on the sport is fighting to make a connection with the next generation.

Although it remains the centerpiece of the Olympics, beyond that four-yearly celebration athletics is on the wane and, if it were not for the giant presence of Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt, it would be in real trouble.

A dire shortage of recognizable personalities, an aging audience, a confusing calendar, a continuing struggle to attract interest in the United States and the dark shadow of doping has left athletics fighting for a foothold in an ever-more crowded sporting and leisure landscape.

None of this is news to those who run the sport but Coe, who launched his campaign to become president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Wednesday, recognizes the need for remedial action is urgent.

"From the moment I joined an athletics club I was hooked for life but I am not hermetically sealed in the past," he said.

"There is much to celebrate, protect and nourish but also much that needs to change. There is a fundamental concern about where our next generation of spectators, TV viewers, competitors and coaches will come from.

"Despite many well-intentioned initiatives we have struggled to excite young people and articulate why athletics matters to them. This is unsustainable."   Continued...

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the organising committee for the London Olympics speaks at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, central England October 10, 2012.  REUTERS/Toby Melville