British middle-distance great discusses the need for increased creativity when it comes to delivering athletics as he continues his IAAF presidential campaign
The idea of taking athletics to the streets was highlighted by Lord Seb Coe in his IAAF presidential campaign manifesto towards the end of last year and this week the middle-distance great reinforced his belief that further athletics-delivery creativity is required for future fan engagement.
As Great Run founder Brendan Foster voiced plans for the Morrisons Great Newham London Run to become Britain’s largest mass participation running event with 60,000 runners within five years, Lord Coe spoke of a “twin challenge” concerning the accessibility of running and athletics as well as participants feeling part of the sport’s “family”.
“It is about being more creative about the way we deliver the sport, being more creative about how we excite people into it,” he said.
“The theatre of the sport must always be the stadium, particularly around world championships, but taking it into the streets, creating opportunities in shopping centres for example, we’ve got to do this now.”
Street athletics events are not a new concept, though in his manifesto Lord Coe spoke about the possibility of an ‘IAAF Street Athletics’ circuit to help reach new audiences and engage younger fans.
“I’m quite a traditionalist by instinct but we do have to do this differently and we do have to recognise that young people see the world in a very different way.
“There is a twin challenge here – more and more people are running and that’s a really good thing, running and participation numbers are up in the UK and around the world. But we’ve got to continue to make running accessible.
“The great thing about participation runs, the great thing about taking athletics into the streets, is that it sort of democratises it. It makes it accesible.”
Speaking at the launch of the Great Newham London Run at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Lord Coe added: “What we really want to encourage people to do is when they’re running around here to think, actually for a few delusional moments, they are Mo Farah, they are Paula Radcliffe, they are Jo Pavey. Not enough do that.
“We’ve also really got to get more people to recognise that when they’re out there they are part of the athletics family, they are part of the movement. They are in the same sport as Mo Farah, Jess Ennis-Hill, Allyson Felix, Usain Bolt, we’re doing the same thing. That, I think, is something that we’ve not really focussed on enough in the last few years.”
Lord Coe, who faces competition for IAAF presidency from fellow IAAF vice president and pole vault great Sergey Bubka, has travelled to four continents in the past two weeks as his campaign continues.
“It’s good,” said Lord Coe, “it’s the way I thought it would be. If you’re going to stand for election you have to put yourself out there and that’s what I’m doing.
“It’s very difficult to tell but the feedback is good and I’m able to discuss my ideas and my thoughts and they seem to be getting a reasonable reception.
“Actually, it’s what I said when I launched the manifesto,” he added. “It’s not really just about who emerges at the end of that process, of course I hope it’s me, but it is actually a very good opportunity for federations and the sport every now and again just to have an open discourse about where we think our sport needs to be in 20 years’ time.
“It’s been incredibly helpful to me because first of all I’m gratified that a lot of the things that I’ve instinctively felt and absorbed over the years is sort of being reinforced pretty much wherever I go and I think that’s probably about the best you can say with a few months to go.”
» The Morrisons Great Newham London Run takes place on Sunday July 19 and gives you the chance to run on the track and cross the finish line in the Olympic Stadium. See www.greatrun.org