Inside Lines: London banks on Coe to clinch 2017 track victory over Qatar


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Sebastian Coe was always adeptat getting his nose in front inphoto-finishes, and he is awarethat he will again require all his old last-lap canniness to win his latest race – to get London over the finishing line ahead of Qatar this week and bring the 2017 World Athletics Championships to the Olympic Stadium.

Much depends on the outcome of the vote in Monaco; not only the future ofthe stadium itself but Coe's own ambition to become the global overlord of the sport once the 2012 Games are done and dusted. London's bid to stage the championships will be decided by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), athletics' worldwide governing body, of which Coe wants to be the next president. Victory for London would almost certainly seal it; defeat could leave him in limbo and raise serious doubts as to whether his insistence on keeping an athletics track around the stadium remains sustainable. David Cameron will pledge his support for London in a video message to be shown to the 27 voting members of the IAAF council, but London will rely heavily on the Coe rhetoric and persuasive charm that earned the city the 2012 Games in Singapore six years ago. The question is whether the Government-backed vow to keep the track is sufficient to give London the nod over the burgeoning influence of the mega-rich 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, who promise the Doha track will have revolutionary open-air conditioning in the stifling heat of an Arabian summer. Insiders reckon it is 50-50, and fight fan Coe may have to pin his hopes on a split decision.

Olympic art attack

As someone who miserably failed O-level art, I may not be the best judge, but I doubt I am alone in thinking that London 2012's newly revealed Olympic posters are a pile of arty-farty rubbish, plucked from that brilliant spoof TV series on next year's Games rather than being the real thing. Supposedly they have been selected to showcase the nation's "artistic excellence". But they are just another example of what happens when you let the luvvies loose on sport. With these, added to that unfathomable 2012 logo, you begin to fear what some aspects of the Opening Ceremony might be like: all rapped up, with any semblance of tradition scornfully elbowed. Enough to give anyone an art attack.

Snapping up The Greatest

If you want to see some real art, pop into a small gallery in London's Fleet Street. There you will find a truly evocative exhibition of photographs of Muhammad Ali by one of the finest sports snappers around, Chris Smith. The ailing Ali will be 70 in January, and this a brilliant pictorial insight into the man overwhelmingly voted Sports Sports Personality of the Century in an Independent poll. ITV will also be screening a new documentary to coincide with his birthday but meanwhile I recommend this collection of stills, which largely show Ali in preparation for ring combat. Some are already being snapped up for four-figure sums. The free exhibition is on show at the Piero Passet Gallery, 21 Fleet Street, until Christmas.

Linking with Lineker

Only the BBC could move their sports operation lock, stock and Lineker from White City to Salford while the biggest event in the department's history takes place in London next year. Understandably, the illustrious presenter is not too happy at the prospect of regular hauls up the M6, but with Sky constantly knocking on his doorthe BBC are hoping to keep Gary sweet by making him their main man on screen during their Olympic coverage. Which at least will keep him in London at the huge new media complex in the Olympic Park. A venue, incidentally,that surely would have made an ideal Beeb HQ after the Games.