World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said “I haven’t ruled it in, and I certainly haven’t ruled it out,” when asked Friday whether he might try to become leader of the International Olympic Committee after Thomas Bach’s term ends in 2025.
A perfect answer, since public campaigning for one of the most powerful posts in sports is technically not allowed, even if Coe’s name is a constant presence in that conversation.
The 66-year-old, two-time Olympic champion was less than 24 hours removed from being elected unopposed to his third term as the global leader of track and field. The World championships for track start on Saturday in Budapest.
Coe used the IOC question to expand on the passion he holds for his current job and said there is much to accomplish over the next four years — most notably, expanding and modernizing the track schedule in a quest to return the sport to prominence.
“When we talk about making our sport relevant in the lives of young people, we actually mean making it relevant to their lifestyles,” Coe said. “There are lots of things we need to address and my focus is entirely on on doing that.”
Others who have been mentioned as Bach’s possible successors include IOC members Kirsty Coventry, a gold-medal swimmer from Zimbabwe; Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, the son of the former IOC president; and Nicole Hoevertsz, a former synchronized swimmer from Aruba. Samaranch and Hoevertsz are currently vice presidents and Coventry is chair of the coordination commission for the 2032 Games in Brisbane.
Coe and Bach have a shared history in Olympic politics dating to an IOC meeting in 1981 when they were among the first athletes invited to help shape changes in the increasingly professional Summer Games. But if it were similar to his eight years as leader of track, a Coe presidency at the IOC would potentially transform the organization that Bach has shaped over his decade as leader.
Under Coe’s leadership, World Athletics took the toughest position of any sport when it came to holding Russia to account for its state-sponsored doping scandal. Today, World Athletics is not allowing Russian athletes into its international events because of the war in Ukraine. These stringent stances went against policies favored by the IOC and much of the Olympic world.
Despite these policy differences, Coe’s resume — which includes leading London’s organizing committee for the 2012 Games — earned him a spot on the IOC in 2020.
He also carries baggage.
Coe severed a personal business deal with Nike while he was vice president of what was then known as the IAAF in 2011, conceding “the current noise around it is not good.” At around the same time, track’s leaders bypassed their usual bidding process and awarded the 2021 world championships (moved to 2022 because of COVID) to Eugene, Oregon, where Nike is a major player. Coe had urged Eugene to go for 2021 after it lost a bid for 2019 but said he didn’t lobby track leaders on Eugene’s behalf.
Coe was on the executive team under former track president Lamine Diack, who was convicted of extorting money from athletes and accused of taking bribes in an Olympic hosting vote.
Coe replaced Diack in 2015 and set forth a package of reforms that has largely been considered a success. Top on that list was the 2017 formation of the Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping issues in a sport where they’ve been prevalent.
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