By Haileegziabher Adhanom, AIPS Young Reporter, Ethiopia
LONDON, August 2, 2017- Ahead of the the World Championships in Athletics in London set to star on Friday, the IAAF Athletics Connect 2017 convention kicked off serious discussions on the sport in the UK capital. The convention, serving as a lead in to the 51st IAAF Congress, is the first of its kind organized by the athletics governing body, and is designed to promote discussion and debate, and help navigate the future by confronting some of the challenges the sport and its national federations have faced.
In his opening speech at the Convention IAAF President Sebastian Coe said: “Sport is all about hard work, world class coaching and our athletes’ devotion of half of their young lives to training and promoting athletics. But we also know that sport has been sourly tested in the last two years, and it is up to us to address those triangular deficits – these are: the ability to remain relevant, retaining trust and the delivery of constantly reliable leadership.
“Before we address the challenges that we are facing one by one it’s good to know that this is not only IAAF’s fragility but problems that other sectors in sport are facing as well.”
To the heads of national athletics associations and various stakeholders present at the convention, Coe stressed the crucial importance of sustaining the reach of athletics and its likeability for the global audience. As with the International Olympic Committee, the key has become not just finding ways to make the brand reliable again, but evolving with time and technology to attract new generations to athletics.
According to the president, regaining trust in athletics should be among the top agendas of each and every stakeholder in the sport. It was highlighted yet again that IAAF is on the side of clean athletes and that there should be zero tolerance for those who break the vow to compete clean. And Coe assured the auditorium that cheaters would indeed be caught due to the IAAF latest technology, bigger and better than ever before.
The need for reforms to regain worldwide trust in the sport led to the creation of the Athletics Integrity Unit – to address the failings of the past and lay out benchmarks for solutions.
How long is too long?
Last but not the least, Sebastian Coe underlined the challenge of building leadership in athletics that is reliable and accountable in an association that is itself transparent and transformative. As only the sixth president of IAAF in its more than a century of history, Coe conceded that decades of presidential term and prolonged staying power are becoming a thing of the past, while referring to the likes of Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC for 21 years, FIFA’s Sepp Blatter in charge for 17, and football managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Coe’s predecessor Lamine Diack was at the head of IAAF for 16 years – four terms.
“Setting a term limit for leadership and setting up clear checks and balances system will support the reform in our sport,” he emphasized, while encouraging stakeholders and athletics leaders to let new winds blow into the organization.
The one-day convention believed to shape the future of athletics will see different sessions on Gender Equity, Area alignments and Area Representation.