Michael Phelps is 'probably not' the greatest Olympian, says Lord Coe, despite record medal haul
Lord Coe has refused to call Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time - despite the American winning more medals than any other athlete in history.
Yesterday the 27-year-old claimed his 19th medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.
Although the Baltimore-born swimmer is "up there" with the Olympic greats, the London 2012 chairman said he did not consider Phelps to be the greatest.
"Self-evidently, by the medal tally, he's the most successful," said Lord Coe.
"My personal view is that I'm not sure he is the greatest. But he's certainly the most successful, that goes without saying."
He continued: "In the lead-up to these Games we have talked about the great British pub game of picking who is going to be lighting the cauldron and all that sort of stuff.
"This is the global pub game: Who is the greatest Olympian of all time? It is self-evident, the guy has won how many medals, 19? It is a pretty good haul, but whether he is the greatest, I don't know.
"But you have to say he's up there. But whether he is the greatest, in my opinion, probably not."
Lord Coe shied away from naming the athlete who he thought deserved the title.
He said: "I could throw out a series of names, I could throw out Steve Redgrave, I could throw out, domestically, Daley Thomspon. If I wanted to go back a few generations I think what Jesse Owens did in '36 was unbelievable or Nadia Comaneci.
"I don't know. It is the global pub game."
Phelps became the most successful athlete in the history of the Games yesterday when he won gold in the men's 200m freestyle relay, bringing his all-time tally of Olympic medals to a record 19, one more than Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
Phelps has 15 gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
He still has three races to come in the Games and could finish his Olympic career with 22 medals.
Arsenal have 'too many strikers' claims Arsene Wenger, despite admitting Lukas Podolski is 'not a real centre-forward'
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger says he will be 'actively involved' on deadline day... but may not buy a striker despite Giroud injury
Fernando Torres to AC Milan: Jose Mourinho talks up Mattia Destro with Torres on verge of Chelsea exit
Mario Balotelli has been 'spoken to at length' and Liverpool have ensured he lives on Merseyside rather than Manchester
Burnley vs Manchester United: Why Louis van Gaal has been unflustered by United's terrible start to the season
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 5 Medina: Saudis take a bulldozer to Islam's history
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools