RICHARD BULLICK TALKS TO THE MAN LEADING LONDON'S 2012 OLYMPICS BID, ATHLETICS LEGEND SEBASTIAN COE: Athletics - Coe Leads from Front

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), September 16, 2004 | Go to article overview

RICHARD BULLICK TALKS TO THE MAN LEADING LONDON'S 2012 OLYMPICS BID, ATHLETICS LEGEND SEBASTIAN COE: Athletics - Coe Leads from Front


SEB Coe is adamant that bringing the Olympics to London would surpass anything he achieved in an amazing athletics career.

Coming from a man who won the gold medal in the 1,500 metres at successive Games, that is some statement, but Coe can convincingly argue the case.

"The medals were essentially won for myself and, although no doubt there were a lot of people pleased and proud that Britain got those gold medals, the Olympics coming to London would be much more life-changing for the people of this country," he insists.

Talking to the News Letter towards the end of an exhausting Monday of engagements in Northern Ireland as part of his national tour to promote the 2012 bid, Lord Coe was in upbeat mood.

"It's been a busy day but a very positive one. I've always enjoyed coming to Northern Ireland and have happy memories of running here," he enthuses after emerging from his latest reception at Belfast's Linenhall Library.

"We'd an early start and are still going, but I've had a good reception for the message which I've brought. There's clearly a strong sporting culture in the province and an appreciation of just how big a deal it would be if the Games could come to this country. The level of understanding and support here is as strong as I've encountered anywhere."

The former Olympic champion and world record holder is the ideal man to lead London's bid given the compelling combination of the superstar status conferred on him by his track success and the political experience gained during five years as an MP in the mid-1990s.

Completely comfortable in rubbing shoulders with the international movers and shakers, courting the great and the good of civic society in this country, and working with the media, Coe also has the populist appeal which goes with sporting stardom.

He hasn't competed for some 14 years, but remains recognisable and rightly regarded as a hero by everyone over the age of 30 with an interest in sport.

This writer only really discovered sport in early 1985, thus missing out on Seb's success in Moscow and Los Angeles, but readily remembers running round the fields at home pretending to be him in imaginary races and being inspired to take to the track at school.

Getting to talk to a boyhood hero is not something that you do every day and Coe carries clout wherever he goes thanks to those heroics two decades ago.

He needs no introductions-either when meeting members of the IOC in Brazil or talking to the public in Brighton.

All aspects are of critical importance, with the voting IOC members, the stakeholders or partner organisations needed to successfully stage the games and the British public effectively representing the three legs of the stool.

Direct lobbying of those who will cast the crucial votes is important, but those individuals will be influenced by the technical quality of the bid and its capacity to inspire as well as gauging interest levels in the host city and country.

"The IOC will carry out opinion polls around the country and, no matter how impressive all other aspects of your bid may be in terms of the proposed facilities, infrastructure and general organisation, it will be holed beneath the waterline if it lacks popular support."

General perceptions in the English regions that there is too much focus on London and that the allocation of resources and so forth tends to be very capital-centric are regularly reported.

So, given that the Olympic events would be limited to London, how hard is Coe having to work to convince the rest of the country that they should be excited about the bid or expect to reap any spin-off benefits? Is he encountering much parochial hostility?

"The IOC have made it very clear that the Games are awarded to a city rather than a country but, unlike in the United States for example, where California is a long way from Atlanta, the United Kingdom is relatively small in geographic terms. …

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