in the back

No-Coe area
Olympic Games , Issue 1628
lord-coe.jpg
COE’S PLAY: Relations are fraught between the IOC and Coe’s World Athletics
A CENTURY since the Chariots of Fire games, the Olympics return to Paris this month with an internecine struggle over who will become the latest successor to the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

Things are not looking great for Britain's uber-ambitious Lord (Sebastian) Coe, after a move that has been likened by Olympics- watchers to "sticking a figurative knife into Coe in broad daylight".

The former Tory MP and peer is of course an Olympic hero, having twice won gold in the 1,500 metres, as well as delivering a well-staged games in London. But those 2012 Olympics are a distant memory, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, is doing all in his power to thwart the Briton's hopes of succeeding him next year.

Wrong track ('n' field)
Coe is only a member of the IOC by virtue of being the president of World Athletics (WA), the governing body of the sport that has been the highlight and climax of every games since the days of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. But track and field athletics appears to be in a downward spiral of public indifference, after decades of irrelevant marketing gimmickry.

Last month's European championships in Rome was only broadcast in Britain via the BBC red button, with a feed provided by the organisers. The national Olympic trials in Manchester at the end of June also failed to make it on to a terrestrial channel, the first time in more than 60 years.

There's worse to come for track and field when the games are staged in Los Angeles in 2028, with the athletics programme shunted into the first week because the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum needs to be reconfigured in time for the college football season – something the IOC has done nothing to prevent.

Bach feud
There is little love lost between the IOC and World Athletics, in large part because of the latter's tougher stance on Russia – firstly due to doping and more recently Ukraine.

Coe is also in Bach's bad books because of his announcement earlier this year that WA was offering $50,000 for every athletics gold medal-winner in Paris, breaking de Coubertin's 130-year Olympic code; the IOC was only informed of the initiative on the morning of the announcement. The stunt created a clamour from other sports for Bach's IOC to stump up cash so that they, too, can reward their champions.

Bach's response has been to name another former Conservative MP, Hugh Robertson, now the chair of the British Olympic Association, as the next Brit to be admitted into his exclusive club. Since Britain has two seats on the IOC, the other being Princess Anne, Robertson's elevation effectively blocks Coe from becoming a member in his own right.

Send it to Coventry?
Bach, who has been IOC president since 2013, has maintained that he will abide by the Olympic Charter, which requires him to stand down after 12 years. But some suspect the 70-year-old of plotting to change the rules to allow him one more lucrative term of office. There is also a suggestion that Bach is lining up anyone-but-Coe candidates. One could be Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, son of the former IOC president from 1980 to 2001.

Another possibility would be to anoint the IOC's first female president – double gold-winning swimmer Kirsty Coventry, now Zimbabwe's sports minister. That would be ironic. After Coventry won gold in Athens in 2004, she was handed a suitcase stuffed with $50,000 in bills by her country's then president, Robert Mugabe.

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