Nothing off table as athletics looks forward: Coe

Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:09pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Track and field fans were offered a small glimpse of the future at the world indoor championships this week, with athletics supremo Sebastian Coe promising nothing is off the table as he tries to rebuild the savaged sport.

With his sport battered by doping scandals, and deserted by fans and sponsors, there has been no honeymoon period for Coe, who took over the job of president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in August from Lamine Diack, who is under investigation in France for fraud and money laundering.

Overseeing his first major IAAF event, Coe freed Portland organizers to experiment with the format, the meet taking on a rock show vibe as athletes emerged from a tunnel for introductions to flashing lights and billows of smoke while thumping music provided the background sound track for the entire meet.

All the cosmetic changes in the world, however, will not save a sport teetering on a rotten foundation.

But Coe is also promising major renovations from the ground up to rebuild trust among athletes, fans and sponsors by introducing new doping guidelines, a coordinated calendar, an emphasis on social media and plenty of razzmatazz to pull in the younger fans every sport covets.

"It has been character forming," Coe, 59, told Reuters while offering a wry smile. "Actually the one thing I am really comforted by is that there is a real appetite for change.

"The overwhelming challenge is no different than it has been for the last decade and that is how do we excite more young people to want to be part of our sport?

"So I welcome things that create a greater entertainment value.   Continued...

Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, looks on during opening ceremonies for the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, Oregon March 17, 2016.   REUTERS/Mike Blake