VINCZE SZABOLCS (Eugene) 2022.07.26 20:26 Frissítve: 2022.07.26 20:26

Athletics: I hope the best World Championships ever will be in Budapest – Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations, gave Nemzeti Sport an interview in which he spoke about the new challenges the sport faces, next year's World Championships in Budapest, and why it is important that the competition returns to Europe.

Coe says Budapest could raise the bar even higher next year

 

– Another World Championships is coming next year, and it will be in Budapest. Is a busy schedule good for the sport?
– I think it's great that we'll be hosting another World Championships in a year's time, but this is a challenging time, especially for the athletes – said Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations. – We've finally found a way for them to get back to living and working normally after having to fight the coronavirus, confinement, lack of facilities, and the interrupted training schedules, or having to travel to warmer climates during winter. Now, they have to face other challenges.

– What do you mean?
– Over the next six to seven years, athletics will have a central role in the sporting calendar, particularly in the northern hemisphere, where it is most popular. With this comes difficult decisions for the athletes such as the pace of their training in the coming years, and the coaches have to find a balance because of the busy calendar if they want their athletes to not burn out. Of course, I'm happy that we have so many opportunities to show ourselves to the world but we have to minimize the challenges, especially this season when, in addition to the World Championships, there will be the Commonwealth Games, European Championships, Continental championships. In a few days' time, the U20 World Championships will start in Cali, Colombia with junior rising stars who are already competing at the senior level. Federations and coaching staff need to manage a situation like this in a sensible way.

– How many times have you been to Budapest in the last few years?
– Three or four times. For example, just a few days ago, I was at the World Aquatics Championships. It gave me the opportunity to see how another sport was organizing its world championships and to discuss further details with the organizing committee. I'm pleased with the schedule and progress, I was probably formally the first person to run in the new stadium, and although the construction is still ongoing, it will be fantastic and the legacy of the athletics is very important.

– What does it mean for athletics that the World Championships is returning to Europe after Doha and Eugene?
– Europe has always been one of the strongest bastions of athletics, the continent loves the sport, including Hungary, which has a very rich sporting history. You have hosted many major sports events, athletics competitions, and Budapest is a beautiful city, it has a lot of advantages to host it there. I hope that you will organize the best World Championships ever because I have always had my eyes on making the next worlds better and raising the bar even higher. That was the case in Doha after London, then in Eugene, and it will the same in Budapest. The World Championships is always a benchmark for improvement, just as the athletes want to improve competition after competition.

The President of the Hungarian Athletics Federation, Miklós Gyulai (second to left) took the baton in Eugene (PHOTO: AFP)

 

– What were the difficulties in Eugene?
– Eugene is a small town with not many accommodation options, but we were prepared for that. We were keen to finally bring the event to the U.S. before the 2028 Olympics, and we had to accept that Eugene was the home of the sport. If American athletics is strong, and we have a bigger presence in the country, it will go a long way in helping us grow worldwide. There were other shortcomings such as the medal ceremonies, but compromises had to be made because of the daily schedule, the broadcast, and the athletes' schedules. It is not easy, and it would be best for the athletes to hand the medal around their necks in front of a full house.

– You also plan to reform and shorten the ten-day-long World Championships. This...
– ... will certainly not affect Budapest, but perhaps the 2025 Tokyo World Championships. We don't want to throw away our history, we don't want to “cannibalize” the competition, but as president, I have to review everything again and again. I have to be aware of all the circumstances and have to know who has what needs. For the public, the young people, the athletes, and TV stations, I think the ten days is a long time in the light of the way and the way the world, the flow of information and entertainment is changing. Presentation is very important, and you will have the advantage of having the World Championships in a big city, in a cultural center where people can do a lot of things when they are not watching athletics. That is why I'm thinking about the length of the competition because the morning program and the lack of that will certainly have to be changed.

– A few years ago, you said one of your goals was to bring athletics closer to people. How did that work out?
– More and more of our staff are working on social media while we are still trying to take our competitions outside the stadiums. For example, the first day of the Diamond League final in Zurich is going to be in the city center, and I have already had several discussions with the organizers of the Paris and Los Angeles Olympics about something similar. I think we are making good progress.

Translated by Vanda Orosz.

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