World Athletics president Coe hopeful for next season

LONDON, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) — World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said on Friday that he is hopeful that most athletics events next season will take place, including the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Sitting in the headquarters of World Athletics in Monaco, Coe made the remarks during an online interview.

“I’ve become much more familiar with technology,” said the 64-year-old former Olympic champion. “I feel a lot more competent using that. I appreciated that technology does allow us to be much more connected, in a funny way. I don’t want it that connected always to be on the screen, but at the moment it’s the best way we can focus.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic still seriously affecting life in many regions of the world, Coe is looking forward to a comparatively normal season next year.

“Yes, I’m hopeful. I’m not sure ‘optimistic’ is the right word, but at last there are elements that give me more comfort,” said Coe, who was encouraged both by the delivery of a vaccine and medical experts’ greater knowledge about the virus.

“But I’m not scientist and a scientist has warned me to be cautious. Because the virus’ pattern changes, sometimes it’s complicated and difficult to be interpreted, but I hope we are in a position to deliver as much of the season as we possibly can, and of course the centerpiece of the season will be the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”

Coe visited Tokyo in October, becoming the first high-profile leader of international sporting organizations to visit Japan since the COVID-19 outbreak.

During his visit, Coe said that Tokyo would host a fantastic Olympic Games despite the uncertainties amid the pandemic. Now, he keeps faith that the athletes will be ready for a Games that may take place under usual circumstances.

“We hope there will be spectators in the stadium, but we don’t know. There may only be a partially full stadium. The athletes are going to get used to living in a village where social distancing is probably still going to be important, where masks may still need to be worn.

“They will be ready for that, because they are by nature adaptable. They are there to compete and they are going to do everything they can to compete well.”

Earlier this week, the Nanjing World Athletics Indoor Championships was postponed for the second time.

“When you postpone an event you are always disappointed. When you postpone an event in a country that are passionate about the sport, you are probably more disappointed. But we do understand the challenges,” said Coe.

The championships, originally planned to be held in Nanjing in March this year, had been postponed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the event has been postponed further until 2023, one year after the next World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in 2022.

“I’m delighted that we have been able to announce it will take place in 2023,” said Coe. “It’s a shame it happened but I think everybody understand the complexity of the world we are now living in.”

“China is a country and a member federation that has constantly wanted to stage our events and we are very pleased that they want to continuously do that,” said Coe.

To summarise the shortened season, Coe said he was proud that World Athletics had achieved several ambitions set at the beginning of the pandemic, such as creating a welfare fund that has offered 193 athletes one-time grants of 3,000 U.S. dollars, making sure the changes to Olympic qualification were properly understood, reorganizing the global calendar and protecting member associations.

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