Corona Chronicles: Sebastian Coe Says Sport Forever Changed

(ATR) With sport under siege from corona, the World Athletics president and leader of London 2012 briefs media by teleconference.

(ATR) World Athletics president Sebastian Coe believes that the corona virus pandemic will forever change sport.

"Nothing is going to be the same again, nor should we think our sport is going to be the same again," Coe told select journalists on a video conference call Friday. "There is a permission that we’ve been given to think about these things in a very different way.

"The world is going to be a different place and that’s not a bad thing. We should redefine our own core human values, defining and re-defining our purpose again.

"This is the best time ever to reconnect our sport with some of the broader health and fitness aims out there. Governments have got to do more to about re-establishing sport in schools and we want to be a campaigning organization to drive that.

"More people probably have more time on their hands for some obvious and sad reasons where they’re probably getting into pockets of exercise that they’ve never done before. We should capitalize and incentivize this in all our programs."

Considering numerous cancellations on the track and field’s calendar, Coe says that the sport could potentially combine, for example the world half-marathon championships, world race walking championships and major five or ten kilometer races into one celebratory festival weekend. He suggested a running festival of this sort could serve as a "celebration of humanity."

On Friday, Coe addressed journalists from Japan, Europe and the United States on three separate teleconference calls from his home in London. Additional topics discussed included the status of the 2021 World Championships, the 2020 Diamond League, Olympic qualifying procedures, international federation dialogue with the IOC, and ensuring anti-doping measures remain in place during the crisis.

2021 World Championships, Eugene, USA

Coe said that the 2021 World Athletics Championships - scheduled for early August and in the U.S. for the first time ever – will probably not be combined with a re-scheduled Tokyo Olympic Games.

"I think it is unlikely that we’d consider an Olympic Games and a world championships to be one and the same thing," Coe said.

"We’re lucky to be working alongside a first rate organizing committee in Oregon. We’re absolutely committed to having a world championships in Eugene, no question about that.

"Those championships may ease out to another year, but I’m pleased to report that there is a real openness with them to work collaboratively on this and find the best outcome for the athletes."

Coe said rescheduling the 2021 world championships is not unfamiliar territory. He advised that World Atletics must do the same with the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China which were to have taken place this month. Other displaced events on the calendar are Under 20’s Worlds in Nairobi, Kenya andthe World Half-Marathon championships in Poland.

"They are just another complicated piece in the scheduling puzzle," Coe said.

Consultations Between Federations and IOC

Coe noted that he believes all 33 summer federations gained some clarity from a conference call with IOC leaders on Thursday.

"Every sport made a strong case for what was probably in their best interest and that’s what we should be doing," Coe said.

"There was also a very strong recognition around the table that we need to work in concert here. It isn’t just about reconfiguring our own schedules in the sport, but also being cognizant that the global calendar is a very complicated matrix.

"Everything is on the table and nothing is on the table.

"I think the IOC is conscious that they need to make a decision quickly – we need athletes with some certainty.

"The rest of the jigsaw doesn’t make sense until you have the one big centerpiece in it and then we can start building constructively around the edges from there."

Olympic Qualifying

Coe stressed that the numerous track and field athletes who have already qualified for Tokyo 2020 will remain qualified.

"The work that we now need to do is to look at what kind of arrangements we need to make before we release a new set of processes if we have to," he said.

Coe said the federation will rely heavily on its world rankings list to complement those athletes already qualified. Considering the uncertainty of staging future qualifying events, the Athletics chief said determining Olympians will be based 50-50 on Olympic qualifying standards and performances, and the world rankings.

2020 Diamond League

Coe says that there is some hope to salvage some of the 2020 signature Diamond League meets. Events have been cancelled through the end of May. The season runs through September.

He said one immediate priority is "to make sure that we are able to resurrect the rest of the summer season when it is possible.

"I spoke to the athletes commission in some detail on the phone and they want us to reconnect them to competitive season when it is safe and secure to do."

Advice to Tokyo 2020 President

Coe, who led the London 2012 organizing committee, offered some quick advice to Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori and his team, which must re-plan an Olympics. He noted that Mori is a "very accomplished leader" having worked with him as part of the Tokyo coordination commission.

Coe, a two-time Olympic champion said that by the time he and his staff of nearly 8,500 made it to the opening ceremony there was a "level of exhaustion that I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed in any teams I’ve ever worked with.

"If I was confronted with the same unthinkable challenge in London, I’d encourage our team just to take a little R&R and deliver an even better Games in one year’s time."

Reported and written by Brian Pinelli.