Coe says hands off to those wanting to dump athletics events from Olympics

The man who wants to take over as the head of world athletics, Lord Sebastian Coe, has launched a spirited defence of his sport against a push to cut some traditional events from the Olympics.

Coe, the IAAF vice-president who is a candidate to become the new IAAF president, warned the IOC and others sports to take their hands off the five events considered at risk from a push to trim the number of athletics events – the 20-kilometre walk, 10,000 metres, shot put, 4×200 metres relay and triple jump.

“I consider all of those events to be sacrosanct. They have historically played, and they still currently play, an important role in the overall shape of our sport,” said Coe, who is in Queensland attending the Oceania Athletics conference.

“It’s very dangerous to have these ad hoc conversations that focus on shot put or triple jump or race walking and often made by people who have no understanding of the nature of our sport.

“I am not going to take decisions from people in sports who have an nth of the global reach or interest out there and are not in the same sphere as my sport.”

Coe said athletics was the marquee event of the Olympics and it was not going to be bullied into making decisions about events by people in marginal sports.

“It must be remembered we are the No.1 Olympic sport here. This is not a marginal Olympic sport this is the No.1 Olympic sport and we should not be coy or shy in pointing that out at every opportunity,” he said.

“People are getting a little excited a little early about this. The IOC has only just in recent weeks begun their 2020 discussion of the Olympic program and any recommendations that come out of this discussion at IOC level have to be agreed upon after discussion and analysis by the sport.

“And there has to be an overwhelming and underpinning philosophy here that it is the primacy of the sport to make decisions for itself that must underpin all of this discussion.”

Not withstanding that position, Coe accepted that athletics globally faced a challenge to continue to grow to compete with other sports for athletes and audiences, and that to do so it needed to engage young people creatively.

He said the sport had to be mindful that its “product” was also in the entertainment business.

“We are completely alert and alive to how we can best be entertaining and to engage with young people in creative ways, but we will be the ones to make the decisions for our sport,” he said.

Former world and Olympic pole vault champion and fellow IAAF vice-president Sergey Bubka has also nominated as a candidate to replace IAAF president Lamine Diack when he steps down later this year.

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