World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said on Saturday the International Olympic Committee had made the “only decision left open to them” in suspending Russia’s national Olympic body for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine’s membership.
The IOC’s move, made on Thursday during an ongoing executive board meeting in Mumbai, came after the Russian Olympic Committee recognised regional organisations from four Ukrainian territories annexed since Russia’s invasion began in 2022.
World Athletics, however, originally excluded competitors, coaches and officials from Russia and Belarus, a supporter of the invasion, from its events as early as March 2022.
‘Position is clear’
“I think it was the right decision,” Coe told a news conference in Mumbai.
“I think it was the only decision that was left open to them (the IOC). Our position at World Athletics is clear and has been clear on a number of issues since 2015,” he added.
British track great Coe is now in what he says will be the final four years of a stint as World Athletics president that started in 2015.
The 67-year-old, a double Olympic 1500 metre gold medallist, has long been tipped as a future IOC president.
But former UK politician Coe, speaking ahead of Saturday’s opening ceremony for the IOC session in Mumbai, said, “I’m delighted to be representing my sport in the Olympic movement.”
The London 2012 Olympic Games chief added: “I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise to anybody when I say the Olympic movement has been the largest part of my life…I competed in two Olympic Games, I was very proud to be the leader of a team that delivered the best Olympics ever (London 2012) and I’m now the president of the biggest, largest, Olympic sport.”
Coe, however, was more forthcoming as he lauded the rise of Indian athletics following a record haul of 29 medals at the recent Asian Games.
As with many sports in India, athletics has long been overshadowed by the national obsession with cricket, while New Delhi’s hosting of the multi-sport Commonwealth Games in 2010 was marked by construction delays and accusations of financial mismanagement.
Nevertheless, the Athletics Federation of India is considering a bid to stage the 2027 World Athletics Championships.
And with the likes of India’s Olympic and world javelin champion Neeraj Chopra now as well-known as many leading cricketers, Coe said he wanted to see more major athletics events in India.
“It makes economic and it makes athletic sense,” he said. “I want to see India stage as many of our events as is possible.”
AFI president Adille J Sumariwalla, alongside Coe, said no decision had yet been made regarding 2027.
“We haven’t made a formal bid but we are discussing that internally and in the next couple of days we will finalise,” said Sumariwalla, also a vice president of World Athletics.
Coe and Sumariwalla were speaking just hours before the start of Saturday’s blockbuster Cricket World Cup match between hosts India and arch-rivals Pakistan — a fixture taking place following this week’s decision by the IOC executive board to approve Twenty20 cricket for inclusion at the 2028 LA Games.
Coe, whose mother was born in Delhi, joked: “I know there’s a rather large sporting event taking place this afternoon… there will be no neutrality from me when I’m watching that game.”
But on a more serious note, he said while track and field remained the cornerstone of the Olympics, “you have to accept cricket is a very powerful, strong force in many parts of the world”.
Sumariwalla, however, added: “See the winds of change — the cricketers are lining up to take pictures with Neeraj Chopra.”