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Coe sees big role for Bolt

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMAndre Lowe
Lord Sebastian Coe at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Friday night.
Usain Bolt

Is the image of international track and field too reliant on Usain Bolt?

Sebastian Coe does not seem to think so.

The Jamaican sprinting icon may have already booked a long vacation somewhere after announcing his plans to retire in 2017, but if Coe has his way, the world record-breaking machine may well be involved with the sport for years to come.

Coe - an International Asso-ciation of Athletics Federations (IAAF) vice-president and presidential hopeful, has many interesting ideas that he believes will push the sport forward.

It's part of the reason why he spent his weekend here campaigning - sharing his ambitions underlining the pillars of his candidacy and familiarising himself with the island's athletics systems and infrastructure.

He returned to England yesterday with renewed confidence, as well as the endorsement of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) - an important backing in a world where Jamaican regard is high. It will serve him well.

The last time Coe ran a campaign, things didn't turn out too well for him.

He and his Conservative and Unionists party colleagues were booted by former England Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party in a landslide victory in the 1997 United Kingdom General Elections.

This time, however, the former member of parliament is looking to increase the commercial property of international athletics, widen its reach and empower the member federations as he looks to succeed 16- year president Lamine Diack, at this August's elections, after the Senegalese made it clear he would not seek another term.


Jamaica's role


"It's very flattering and it's a great honour to have Jamaica's support. It is really important that Jamaica is seen to be playing a very senior role in track and field around the world," said Coe, who was known to be very close with former JAAA and NACAC president Neville 'Teddy' McCook, who he called his 'mentor' on the IAAF Council. "If you look at what you are doing in schools, your competitive structures, the way you are identifying talent, nurturing it, coaching it at a world-class level, there are a lot of things that we could learn."

"Jamaican track and field is a powerhouse. It's probably the highest profile federation and not only because of the nature of the athletes that you currently have. No athlete in my generation could come through the sport without recognising the seismic contributions that Jamaican track and field has made not only to the history of track and field in this region, but world history. When I first got into the team in the 70s, who was the face of sprinting? Don Quarrie," Coe said.


improve infrastructure


Coe, a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner in the 1500m and the man responsible for the successful delivery of the London 2012 Olympic Games, wants to deliver track and field to the younger generations in ways that they can relate to, improve the infrastructure where it is needed and empower the member federations..

The Englishman also has clear ideas about the role that flag bearers of the sport, like Bolt, need to play when they are done competing.

"Are we overdependent on Bolt? It would be a bit like saying to the boxing community in the 60s and 70s that they are over reliant on Muhammad Ali. I see Usain Bolt in exactly the same bracket, his contribution is immense," said Coe. "In 2005 when I started bidding for London 2012 and went into schools and talked to young people about sports, they would talk to you about David Beckham and Roger Federer but by 2008 they all wanted to be Usain Bolt.

When Usain (Bolt) does decide to retire, our sport must maintain and figure out how he can go on making that impact, it's really important. We have a strong ambassadorial programme but it's very important that people like Usain that have made such a huge impact are encouraged to go on making that contribution. No sport that has a Usain Bolt can ever afford for him to suddenly become a stranger to the sport, as long as he doesn't go off and play for Manchester United," joked the devoted Chelsea supporter.

Coe is being challenged by fellow IAAF vice-president Sergey Bubka. The presidential election is set for the IAAF Congress this August in Beijing, China. There has never been an election for the IAAF presidency in the history of the organisation.