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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?