Olympic ringmaster tames football beast

Coe tackles another 'difficult issue' as he turns 50

There is no higher - nor more frequent - flyer in British sport than Lord Sebastian Coe, but he was brought down to earth with a bump when he turned up as guest of honour at last week's Boxing Writers' dinner.

As he walked through the lobby of London's Savoy Hotel he espied the former world middleweight champion Alan Minter, who was talking on his mobile phone. They exchanged nods, and Coe revealed later that as he passed by, he heard Minter say: "Hey, you'll never guess who's just walked in: that Steve Ovett!"

This has echoes of the famous occasion when, as plain Seb Coe, the lifelong Chelsea fan arrived at a Midlands ground where a ticket had been left in his name. When he presented himself at the VIP entrance he was told by a jobsworth he would have to go round to the other side of the stadium to get the ticket.

"Do I really have to?" he asked. "You must recognise me. I'm Sebastian Coe."

"In that case," came the sniffy reply, "it won't take you long to run round there, will it?"

Lord Pooh-Bah of the Olympics he may be - a recent survey declared he had the best job in British sport - but the London 2012 chairman, lauded from Downing Street to Docklands, retains a refreshing touch of self-deprecation. The double Olympic gold medallist seems to have found his niche in life, first in winning the Games, now in running them. He was 50 last month but says he finds little time for celebration.

He arrived at last week's boxing dinner from Zurich just in time for his speech - as a former Boxing Board of Control steward he follows the sport almost as avidly as he does football - having just chaired the first meeting of Fifa's new Ethics Committee, which he has been recruited to head with the approval of the IOC president, Jacques Rogge.

He spoke for the first time about this revolutionary role, which he insists will not eat into his day job with 2012. "We will meet only four or five times a year," he says. But does he really need the aggravation?

"It is something I wanted to do, because I feel very strongly about the governance of football and the morality around it. As a fan I sit among people who each week are spending a large proportion of their hard-earned disposable income on supporting their team. It is hard enough for them and their families to do that on a regular basis at a time when the governance of the game is anything but clear and transparent."

Does the new watchdog have any teeth in dealing with such issues as corruption, doping and racism? "Oh yes," he says. "We are a sanction-making body and we do not have to clear our findings with Sepp Blatter or anyone. We will deal with things like the conduct of cities bidding for future World Cups, the conduct of members of Fifa, and of agents if necessary. We can also look at domestic issues if, say, an organisation like the FA refer them to us should there be international ramifications.

"I do not see myself as a knight on a white charger crusading to clean up the game. If you look at my career you will know I have never dodged difficult issues. I am no figurehead to sit there and be supine, because for some people the game is at the point of becoming risible, and it is not just because of the public perception that footballers are overpaid."

Coe points out that 95 per cent of his working week is still involved with Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games), an operation that IOC chiefs say, at just under six years out, is the most advanced of any Games in history. "I am a full-time chairman, probably the first the IOC have ever worked with, and it is the only job I have ever had where I go to work and my kids know what I am doing.''

Last month Coe spoke at all three political party conferences about the London 2012 strategy. "In fact," he confided, to his fight-game audience, "I am the only Conservative to address the full Labour conference - apart from Tony Blair!" He was jesting, of course, as he is adamant that, though he is a Tory peer, his Olympic role is apolitical. He is on first-name terms not only with the Prime Minister but David Cameron, Sir Menzies Campbell and Gordon Brown. He has to be, in case of a change of leadership.

So is he satisfied that any new Olympic stewardship in Westminster would have no detrimental effect on the Games? "I have to be. All three political parties are committed totally to the Games, and the present Chancellor is very much behind them. We know from Sydney that political change does not need to derail the hard graft of delivering the Games."

But the build-up to any Games is historically beset with problems. Are there any alarm bells ringing? He says not, though fears have been raised recently, not least by the former Sport England chairman Lord Carter in this newspaper, about the Games' legacy outside of London.

"Well, what I will tell you is that I'm acutely conscious as someone born in London, brought up in Yorkshire and educated in the Midlands, that the Games cannot simply be seen as something that has no relevance outside London. It is absolutely vital that we leave a lasting nationwide legacy."

What for Lord Coe after 2012 is done and dusted? He rules out a return to politics, but what about heading up, eventually, the IAAF or even the IOC? He replies interestingly: "I don't rule out anything, but at the moment as far as international sports politics are concerned, I am focused on my work with London and also with the IAAF Council, for we have a lot of work to do in athletics, a sport which is at the crossroads for reasons that are all too apparent.

"If we don't get a grip on the drugs situation then parents will vote with their feet and kids will turn their back on sport. We must not lose our nerve in dealing with this. Better to sort it out in the short term than the embarrassment of a long-term trip down the tubes. We must not blink." Which is something Coe himself hardly has time to do.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on