Bhubaneswar: International Association of Athletics Federations President Sebastian Coe on Tuesday said the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships, beginning with the opening ceremony on Wednesday, was important for the development of the potential of track and field sport in the continent, in general, and India, in particular.
Talking to the media towards the end of busy day during which he attended the Asian Athletics Association Council meeting and visited the warm-up track at the Kalinga Stadium, he said India’s appetite for sport and the size of the market offered athletics officials the challenge to grab a greater share and generate revenues.
“Asia has the potential with about 60 per cent of the world’s young. It understands sport and we need to make sure that the young understand our sport better. China and Japan have shown the way. With its love for sport, its population, the great interest in broadcasting and commercial opportunities, India can make a mark. That is important for us,” Coe said.
He said the IAAF was aware of competition not only from Olympic sport but also from sport which has evolved in the past decade and a half. “A sport has to innovate and stay relevant,” he said, citing the examples of Indian Premier League and other Twenty20 cricket games, rugby sevens, an adapted version of golf and even the changes in the rules in hockey.
Coe said the IAAF was working to streamline the athletics calendar, the nature of competition and to make high profile athletes support their member federations in fostering the sport. He said the Diamond League was up for review and suggested that it could see some changes. Besides, IAAF is focussing on curbing age fraud, transfer of allegiance of athletes and result manipulation.
“Our sport is a lot cleaner now with good technology and processes in place,” he said in response to a question on the doping menace. “More important, the will among most Federations and coaches to make our sport free, fair and open is strong,” he said.
The IAAF President hit out at the possible role of managers and agents of athletes in preventing head to head competitions that would make the sport more appealing. “We freed up the timetable for the World Championships in London to allow athletes to go for double gold medals in 200m and 400m. The public deserves to see such attempts,” he said.
Coe also said athletics is the toughest sport on the planet. “At the World Championships, if you look up the roof of the stadium, you will find the flags of 200 nations. It is tougher to win in our sport which demands a long apprenticeship period,” he said, suggesting that nations need to enhance their athletics programmes in schools besides developing a sound coaching structure.
He said the arrangements at the warm-up track at the Kalinga Stadium were of high quality. “I spent some time there and interacted with some athletes. I can tell you they are pleased with the arrangements there,” he said, stating that he was delighted to be visiting the Capital of Odisha for the first time.