Sebastian Coe backs IAAF Diamond League in ‘big cities like Delhi’

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India might get an opportunity to host the Diamond League of athletics as the world governing body for athletics IAAF aims to take the showpiece event to all major cities in the world, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said in Jakarta today (Monday).

IAAF Diamond League features the top athletes from across the world.

Coe, who is in Jakarta for the 18th Asian Games, talked to Deputy Chief of PTI Sports Bureau Amanpreet Singh about the possibility of Diamond League coming to India. “The concentration of Diamond League or world events has historically been in European countries. We want to maintain that strength, but we have to make sure that big cities like Delhi, Tokyo, Beijing in Asia are hosting our sport,” Coe said.

The Diamond League is a 14-leg series in which top athletes compete for prize money and points. It was established in 2010 to replace the Golden League for taking the sport beyond Europe and as IAAF’s contract with the event sponsors draws to an end, discussions are on to take the prestigious league to new cities.

“We have one more year with the Diamond League contract. Those discussions are taking place at the moment but I want to see our world events being spread around the world. I want to see the sport in big populations, in big cities and this has to be the objective,” the two-time Olympic champion said.

“Next year we have Asian athletics championship in Doha, then Olympic Games in Tokyo and the World Indoor Championship in Nanjing in 2020. Asia is going to be the focus of the sport for next four or five years,” he added.

Apart from Europe, Asian countries such as China, Qatar and Morocco are already hosting Diamond League events.

Coe, who won the 1500m gold medals at the 1980 and the 1984 Olympic Games, was impressed with the rise of Indian athletes such like  Hima Das and Neeraj Chopra. “She (Hima) was very impressive. I was in the stadium. I know the impact that (her win) had in India. This is a good sign, athletics is beginning to grab the consciousness of the population. I remember the CWG in 2010, you had stadiums full every night,” Coe said.

The IAAF President said India is an important market for his organisation. “It is very encouraging, India is a very important country for the potential to grow our sport. You have a federation which is very ambitious to grow the sport,” he said. “I see India as very important for helping us globalise our sport and there is a huge sponsorship and broadcast market which is something we should be doing a lot more work in. That’s the objective of the IAAF.”

Mixed relay event, with two men and two women athletes competing together as a team, will make its debut at the Asian Games in Jakarta. Coe said innovation was the need of the hour.  “We have had mixed relay in 2015 at the world youth championships, the world relay event in Bahamas was particularly successful. They will be in 2020 in Tokyo and we showcase one in Doha to globalise it before we take it to Tokyo.

“We have to be creative and innovative and do things differently. We will review the impact now and the next year. Obviously we can’t have it in every event but it’s a good sign. It has got a new dimension,” he said.

The Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) style will make its debut the European Games next year. In the new format, mixed-gender teams will compete in a knockout format over five days, the action concluding in two hours.

Asked if the format can be tried at the Asian Games too, Coe said, “Every sport is looking to do things differently. It does not always mean, it will be successful, it does not always mean that you take it to mainstream.”

On dope-tainted Russia’s inclusion in IAAF, Coe said it will still take some time. “Good progress has been made but that’s not quite enough. We are waiting for next report in November. There are elements of testing (WADA) and controlling some of the coaches. Some have been banned, generally good progress,” he said.