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August 11, 2020

More people taking up athletics during lockdown: Coe


August 11, 2020

KARACHI: World Athletics President and two-time Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe on Monday said that during lockdowns due to Covid-19 pandemic more people took up athletics and started walking and running and this trend might benefit athletics in future.

“We will not take this trend for granted but will further build on it after the lockdown so that more young people join our sports to make it stronger,” Coe said during an online seminar titled “athletics in the eyes of media,” organised by the Asian Athletics Association (AAA).

“Athletics is contributing to the health-care scenario during the lockdowns at the local, regional and national levels, leaving a positive impact,” Coe said.

He said during lockdown his body has been able to bring in three people on table, including two from the commercial world. “When we come out of the pandemic we will find the globe more complicated. But I firmly believe that our sport is much stronger, intensely well-bonded, ingenious and more creative. Hopefully we will come out stronger,” the World Athletics chief said.

Besides journalists from Asia, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) President Sheikh Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, AAA president General Dahlan Al Hamad and AAA vice-president and president of Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) Major General (retd) Akram Sahi attended the seminar.

“My relation with media has been huge. It is around 47-year-old link when I was first interviewed by a local newspaper editor in Sheffield Shield,” Coe recalled. “Media landscape is complex. There is less space. Football, cricket and some other sports are being focussed more by media but digital media is offering athletics more these days,” Coe said.

“There is a need for space for athletics in the media which has a huge representation in Olympics,” he said. “Our sport is complicated to cover. Our athletes are the super stars and they are down to earth and offer inspirational stories,” the World Athletics chief said.

The OCA president Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Al-Sabah opened the webinar attended by 200 people. He also highlighted the importance of media for sports development.

“Our sports cannot continue without media and broadcast,” Sheikh Ahmed said. “We understand that other sports are getting more coverage than athletics. It is very sad but everything has a solution,” the OCA chief said.

He said the Covid-19 unsettled everything and disturbed sports calendar which would affect a lot of calendars. He said that sports organisations, media and marketing partners go together and their relationship is always based on trust. “Without trust such link among the three important components cannot be established,” the OCA president stressed.

The AAA president General Dahlan Al Hamad said that during the pandemic the Asian body has worked harder to keep all its associations engaged. He appreciated the efforts of Asian media in the promotion of sports. He said that Asia has a lot of talent but its athletes need top exposure and training.

“Asian athletes need high competition to excel,” Dahlan said. He said that the AAA plans to accommodate athletes for training from those nations who have no resources to work hard on their athletes development.

He said that AAA website is being upgraded. He added that the continental body would keep close relations with media. “This seminar is not the end but we will hold more such events in future,” Dahlan said.

Jackie Brock Doyle, Executive Director of Communication Department of World Athletics, said that athletes unite countries. “Athletes are down to earth and connected with communities and their achievements are always inspirational,” she said.

Citing statistics, she said that athletics lack media coverage. She added that in online news outlets this sport is given more prominence. World Athletics Broadcast Director James said that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult time for the broadcast market around the world, particularly sports broadcasting.

“While some viewing is up, advertising revenues are massively down. Sports viewing has inevitably plummeted resulting in rights refunds or adjustments,” he said.