London 2012 nears its conclusion, but what's next for Lord Coe?


When Kenya's David Rudisha rocketed across the finishing line in the 800m to set the first athletics world record of London 2012, Sebastian Coe was there in the stands of the Olympic Stadium cheering.

Alongside Mo Farah’s double triumph, Lord Coe declared Rudisha's gold the “stand out” performance of the Games and it was not difficult to see why. It took place in the stadium that the London 2012 chairman ensured got built, in the event that was once his own and involved an athlete who was inspired as a child by watching videos of the British runner.

But the crowning moment of the 30th Olympiad for the man most closely identified with its organisation also encapsulates the next big question for him - what will he do once London 2012 is over?

Part of that conundrum was answered today when David Cameron announced Lord Coe would become the Government’s Olympics Legacy Ambassador. His job – which will be part time and unpaid - will be to work across departments to ensure that momentum created by the success of the Olympics is driven into increased sport in school, investment and business and volunteering.

But that is only one – and probably quite small - element of where the debonair peer is heading.

After hanging up his spikes with four Olympic golds and eight world records, Coe concentrated on a business career developing a chain of eponymous health clubs before entering Parliament, first as a Conservative MP and then, when he was unceremoniously dumped out of his seat in 1997, as chief of staff to then Tory leader William Hague.

But, as his enthusiasm for the performance of Rudisha showed, Coe's heart still belongs to sport. And, despite a politick refusal to publicly countenance the future, it is a reasonable bet that it lies in the Byzantine world of sports governance.

When asked by The Independent what he considers to be his own London 2012 legacy, Coe laughed and said he was still focused on completing the Olympic programme. He said: “I am just getting this across the line with our teams. I am not really thinking much beyond, well, not thinking anything beyond the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games.”

The reality is that while he is indeed concentrating on the matter in hand, Coe has thought beyond the end of London 2012. Earlier this year he announced his intention to stand as president of the governing body of international athletics, the IAAF, when the incumbent, former Senegalese long jumper Lamine Diack, steps down in 2015.

Speaking last month, Coe said: “I'd be happy to run my sport. I'm ready. I know how to do this.”

In order to assume the helm, Coe is likely to have to surpass another Olympian legend and formidable operator in the shape of former Russian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, who like Coe is also an IAAF vice-president.

But beyond this lies the ultimate prize for the sporting blazerati - the presidency of the International Olympic Commission. Modesty, and the fact that leadership of the IOC is only conferred on those who have done long service, prevents Coe from expressing any ambition to head perhaps the most self-consciously august body in world sport.

The presidency of the IAAF confers automatic IOC membership on its holder it represents Coe's best chance of getting his feet under the table at the body's opulent Swiss headquarters. Britain already has four members, including Princess Anne and Sir Craig Reedie, and although there is no quota, it is highly unlikely the country would get another.

Coe, who set up and led the IOC athlete's commission and whose impeccable credentials would be valuable to a body where memories of the Salt Lake City corruption scandal, is in a strong position. The previous IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, widely considered the architect of the modern Olympics, was a close friend and treated Coe almost as a son.

But, in a world where the jockeying for position is every bit as tight and ruthless as that experienced by Coe on the running track, it is very far from a foregone conclusion. An IOC member said: “Just because Seb's done a great job in London, it doesn't mean IOC members who have been working in the movement for years will lie down and let him take over. It doesn't work that way.”

A great job indeed. With London widely regarded to have produced one of the best Olympics ever, Coe emerges from the last 16 days with enormous credit. The peer took over the stewardship of the London bid in 2004 after its previous head, American businesswoman Barbara Cassani, stood down and the capital was widely regarded as lagging behind New York and Paris. Even after victory in 2005 with a cleverly aimed emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability, Coe had to steer the vast edifice of the London organising body, Locog, through its £9bn budget.

The result has not been without glitches and failures. The London 2012 ticketing website has been a place of fear and loathing for many of its users while Locog was criticised for the zealousness with which it sought to protect the marketing supremacy of the Olympics’ corporate sponsors. Flip-flopping over the Olympic Stadium, which was originally announced by Coe to be handed on as a 25,000-seat athletics arena and is now planned to remain largely intact as a 60,000-seat stadium, has also been unedifying.

But, amid the eulogies of praise that will rain down on London for its 30th Olympiad, Coe can bask in reflected glory. Jacques Rogge, the man he might yet follow as president of the IOC, said: “I have great confidence in Sebastian Coe. He is a very knowledgeable man. He has his heart in the right place and the heart in the right place means he thinks about the athletes first. He is very talented; he can build a team, so I have high respect for him. And I think he did a very good job.”

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas