On the final day of the brilliantly-hosted IAAF World Championships in Beijing, it also meant the transition of another era. The IAAF presidency shifted Sunday from Lamine Diack to Sebastian Coe, who becomes just the sixth leader for the organization founded in 1912.
Diack, 82, was elected president in 1999 following the death of Italy’s Primo Nebiolo. As a long jumper, he won the 1958 French title, but injuries kept him out of the Rome 1960 Olympics. A former mayor of Dakar, he served as president of the Senegalese football club ASC Diaraf, as well as being technical director for the national team before joining the IAAF council in 1976. He was named senior vice president in 1991. At the opening ceremonies, he spoke of when he joined the council he pushed for China’s inclusion back into the Olympics, which happened in 1980.
Coe, 58, was the Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 and silver medalist in the 800 meters in both 1980 and 1984. He was named IAAF vice president in 2007, was a member of British Parliament and was President of LOCOG (London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games). He edged six-time Ukrainian world champion pole vaulter Sergey Bubka in the IAAF election held in Beijing just before these Championships and becomes the second Brit to hold the position, following Lord Burghley (1946 to 1976).
“We have looked at taking World Championships to places they have not been before,” Coe said in the transition press conference Sunday. “I thank him (Diack) for his unflinching support and wise council. He told me in 2007 that I had one responsibility and one responsibility only, and that was to deliver the best track and field program I possibly could in London.”
Lord Coe reported that during the Beijing World Championships, mobile traffic on the IAAF Web site rose 224 percent, and in Beijing, there were 2 million users, which is a 40 percent increase with page views up 25 percent. He added there were 11 million Facebook visitors, with Usain Bolt’s 100-meter victory the top post at 3.3 million, and Twitter following is up 13 percent to 80,000.
“One of the more concerns is young people don’t take up sports because they are obsessed with screen-based activities,” Coe said, addressing the changing technology. “This (social media) is how to engage young people.”
Other subjects Lord Coe spoke on during his introduction were partnerships with shoe companies, his comparison with current British running great Mo Farah, and the forever dark shadow of doping.
“It is essentially a clean sport,” Coe said of doping. “We have our challenges, and nobody would deny that. There is nothing in our history that should lead you to believe that we haven’t done everything possible. The clean athletes have to absolutely know we are in their corner.”