KINGSTON, Jamaica – IAAF President Sebastian Coe has underlined the importance of Usain Bolt’s continued involvement in international track and field after he retires and again pointed to Jamaican athletics as a valuable element in the efforts to build a positive global image for the sport.
Coe, who is in the middle of a campaign to reform the organisation’s governance following massive doping and corruption scandals, believes that it is extremely important that the IAAF finds a way to make the most of the Jamaican superstar’s international appeal in its drive to increase the reach of a sport that has struggled to keep pace with others where revenue and influence are concerned.
The IAAF boss spent some time with Bolt during last summer’s Olympic Games, which was the athlete’s penultimate championships with next year’s World Championships in London already declared to be his last and gave an idea of what the conversation was about.
“We had a very broad conversation, very broad discussion; I am the very last person who would want to usher Usain into retirement. He will decide at the right moment, and we are delighted he is committed to run in London; that’s a good position to be in, but when Usain does decide it’s time to go off and do other things, it’s inevitable he will have a lot of demands,” Coe told The Gleaner.
“He (Bolt) is a hugely popular global figure and all sorts of organisations, businesses and third-sector organisations are going to have his time, and I just want to make sure that someone who has delivered so supremely well for our sport carves out a little bit of time in what is going to be a busy portfolio not to be lost to athletics.”
Coe was not prepared to go into detail on what Bolt’s role within or with the IAAF would look like but stressed that there is an understanding between himself and the nine-time Olympic gold medal winner.
“We have a working proposition that when the right moment comes, he can come and sit down and we can have a very good discussion about what that role can look like, and I think it’s important that we plan for the future. I would be crazy for our sport not to utilise the experience and global status of a guy that not since Muhammad Ali – only since Ali – someone has grabbed such a global space; it’s an extraordinary experience,” Coe added.
The Brit also singled out the Jamaican performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as a positive point in a challenging year for the organisation.
“Rio was, in terms of performance for track and field, top draw, in large part, courtesy of Jamaica, and I say that with massive respect,” said Coe.
“As I have continuously said, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Jamaican track and field, it’s an extraordinary story, and the country remains one of the powerhouses of track and field. I am grateful for the exploits of Usain Bolt and the other extraordinary athletes. This is a huge bonus, a huge asset [for the IAAF],” added Coe.
The Jamaicans ended the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with 11 medals. With Bolt (100m, 200m), Elaine Thompson (women 100m, 200m), Omar McLeod (110m hurdles), and the men’s 4x100m relay team mining gold.