History’s verdict, whether domestic or international, will smile indulgently on the prime administrator of London 2012 – Sebastian Coe’s rescue and transformation of a near-derelict bid, leading to the narrowest of victories against a favored, but poorly led, campaign by Paris. With the help of then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the achievement at Singapore on 2005 was spectacular. What followed was even more astonishing.
In the face of concerted national pessimism over seven years by a majority of politicians, national institutions, many in media, academics, educationalists, sociologists and many in sport, Lord Coe masterminded a coordinated committee – many of them indispensable cogs – that ultimately hosted an event which earned rapturous, almost universal applause.
If praise for Coe is deserved, while the legacy will take some years to be effectively measured, I consider that his former acclaim as an athlete was of a more special order.
His 1,500 meters victories at Moscow ’80 and LA ’84 revealed more of his soul, never mind talent, a rare capacity to rise above adversity: in Moscow, psychological, following mental blackout in an 800 final lost against a winning time three seconds slower than his world record; in Los Angeles, physical, recovering from a winter of illness which had even threatened to end his career and had debilitatingly drained the
confidence of selectors, media and public.
His resolve ran deep. The national insult then delivered in 1988 – when choosing and then de-selecting him from defense of his title in Seoul by a compass-less governing body – might have poisoned the mind of lesser men.
Coe’s delayed response – apart from a silver medal the following year in the World Cup – was to deliver 24 years later the most accomplished, vibrant hosting of an Olympic Games there has yet been. It is a pity that time may now be too short for him to step into the International Olympic Committee shoes once worn by Pierre de Coubertin.
David Miller can be contacted through the Sport Intern newsletter. The Sport Intern in a blog produced by Karl-Heinz Huba in Lorsch, Germany. Mr. Huba can be reached via email at ISMG@aol.com. This article is reprinted here with the permission of Mr. Huba.