Sebastian Coe: ‘Athletics needs to be innovative, braver and more creative’

The IAAF president admits athletics faces huge challenges from doping to Usain Bolt’s retirement and believes the sport must evolve if it is to avoid decline

As part of Tom Jenkins’ series of films the Guardian spoke to Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. Ever since he assumed the position in August 2017, the sport has been mired in crisis – from allegations of deep-rooted corruption during the tenure of his predecessor, Lamine Diack, to state-sponsored doping and a battle to engage a new generation of participants and viewers. Even as the popularity of running has boomed, the status of athletics has declined in inverse proportion. Now it must cope with the retirement of its greatest star, Usain Bolt, and the rise of myriad new competing attractions among young people.

Seb Coe: “I came home one night and one of my sons was sitting in my office with the television on and playing on a video game. He told me to shush because he was actually playing some kid in Hong Kong. In a league. But on the other hand he also plays hockey and he runs. There’s a balance here. A lot of kids have taken up golf because they played Tiger Woods or played Fifa or Federer v Nadal at tennis. The real skill of a governing body is that if you have got people that far, it is a high-class problem – albeit a challenge – to get them from the video console to the pitch.”

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