Nick Davies, deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of the IAAF

In the centenary year of the IAAF, and just ahead of the start of the Lon­don Olympic Games, Cather­ine Davies spoke to the IAAF’s deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral Nick Davies

Sportcal - - CONTENTS -

The centenary of the found­ing of the IAAF, the world gov­ern­ing body for the sport of ath­let­ics, falls in July this year, the same month as the start of the Olympic Games in Lon­don, giv­ing the fed­er­a­tion an op­por­tu­nity to un­der­line its be­lief that the sport of ath­let­ics is a ma­jor pil­lar - per­haps the ma­jor pil­lar - of the games.

Among the key chal­lenges that the IAAF has set it­self in a new strate­gic re­view is: ‘To make the IAAF’s re­la­tion­ship with the IOC a key pri­or­ity so as to un­der­line and en­hance the IAAF’s role in the Olympic move­ment and the con­tin­u­ing con­tri­bu­tion of ath­let­ics to the suc­cess of the sum­mer Olympic Games.’

The re­la­tion­ship with the Olympics is a some­times touchy one: while it can be ar­gued that the games are in­creas­ingly the lifeblood of the sport, the IAAF also claims that they rely heav­ily on the sport of ath­let­ics and it has staunchly de­fended the amount it earns as its share of Olympic tele­vi­sion rev­enues.

At close to 10 per cent of the to­tal dis­trib­uted for the 2012 games, the $35.77 mil­lion that ath­let­ics will get is nearly dou­ble the amount handed out to the sec­ond tier of sports, in­clud­ing swim­ming (FINA) and gym­nas­tics (FIG), and over three times more than the $11.19 mil­lion that sports like box­ing (AIBA) and ta­ble tennis (ITTF) will earn this year.

But Nick Davies, the IAAF’s deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral, em­pha­sised that the Olympic Games are “very im­por­tant for ath­let­ics and vice versa. We should not for­get that from 1896 un­til 1980 the Olympic Games was the of­fi­cial ath­let­ics World Cham­pi­onships and so ath­let­ics, as a core sport, has al­ways had a very spe­cial place in the Olympic Move­ment, es­pe­cially if you con­sider that the an­cient Olympic Games was es­sen­tially based on ath­let­ics.”

Like the IOC, the IAAF, which is based in Monaco, is keen to en­sure that its sport adapts to the times, with Davies say­ing that “the world is con­stantly chang­ing and the IAAF is not com­pla­cent.”

He added that the fed­er­a­tion is work­ing on strate­gies to adapt its com­pe­ti­tion pro­grammes to re­flect the in­creas­ing diver­sity of the sport and en­ter­tain­ment world open to the pub­lic.

Davies was pro­moted to deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral at the same time as the ap­point­ment of gen­eral sec­re­tary Es­sar Gabriel at a coun­cil meet­ing held be­fore the 2011 IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Daegu, Korea.

“We want to ex­pand into new mar­kets, but most im­por­tantly, make sure that we continue at­tract­ing new par­tic­i­pants to our sport.”

The IAAF’s links with the IOC look set to ben­e­fit from the fact that Gabriel joined the IAAF di­rectly from the IOC, where he held the post of di­rec­tor of the Youth Olympic Games.

Davies ar­gued that it should not be for­got­ten that ath­let­ics is the only sport in the two-week com­pe­ti­tion pe­riod of the Olympic Games to at­tract more than 1 mil­lion spec­ta­tors to sta­dium events and more than 2 mil­lion spec­ta­tors to road events (the men’s and women’s marathons and walks). He said: “Those fig­ures, which of course are vi­tal from a ticket rev­enue per­spec­tive, should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.”

Sergey Bubka, the for­mer Olympic pole vault gold medal­list who is now an IOC mem­ber and IAAF vice pres­i­dent - and one of the heirs ap­par­ent to IAAF pres­i­dent Lamine Di­ack, who is due to re­tire in 2015 - has been at the fore­front of push­ing changes to im­prove ath­let­ics cov­er­age on tele­vi­sion, and ear­lier this year launched a Twit­ter dis­cus­sion on whether medal cer­e­monies in sta­di­ums cause dis­trac­tion and de­lays.

Davies said: “Ath­let­ics, like all the Olympic sports and the Olympic Move­ment over­all, has to take the nec­es­sary ac­tions to re­tain its ap­peal to the young gen­er­a­tion. We have al­ready had medal cer­e­monies out­side the ath­let­ics sta­dium – in the city cen­tre – in a bid to con­nect with the wider pub­lic, but in other cases, the tradition of re­ceiv­ing a medal in a packed sta­dium is also hard to beat, so you need to have flex­i­bil­ity and con­sider each cham­pi­onships on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis.”

Part of the chal­lenge that the IAAF faces is to drive and main­tain in­ter­est in the sport out­side the Olympic Games, where, for one week ev­ery four years, it has top billing.

The fed­er­a­tion an­nounced the launch of its Ath­let­ics’ World Plan in 2003, as a ‘liv­ing frame­work’ to fur­ther de­velop the sport, and, on the eve of the IAAF centenary, the three-part ini­tia­tive is now reach­ing the fi­nal phase.

This plan, ac­cord­ing to Davies, has “de­liv­ered in its aim to make our sport fit for the de­mands of the 21st cen­tury. We are now keen to en­hance and im­prove our com­pe­ti­tion pro­grammes, to in­crease aware­ness and build a big­ger world­wide fan-base. We want to ex­pand into new mar­kets, but most im­por­tantly, make sure that we continue at­tract­ing new par­tic­i­pants to our sport.”

Davies said: “When you talk about ath­let­ics in 2012, you need to ac­cept that there is now both the tra­di­tional top level in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, with elite ath­letes com­pet­ing, but also a vast world of mass par­tic­i­pa­tion, not only in the area of road run­ning com­pe­ti­tion but also sport ac­tiv­ity at grass roots level which has very lit­tle to do with com­pe­ti­tion as such and ev­ery­thing to do with so­cial in­clu­sion, and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity as a healthy end in it­self, ef­fec­tively train­ing with­out com­pe­ti­tion.”

The IAAF has made sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts in re­cent years to get closer to the road run­ning com­pe­ti­tion world, and has cre­ated a sys­tem of IAAF gold, sil­ver and bronze la­bels, but it has also worked hard on grass roots ini­tia­tives aimed at young peo­ple with a project de­signed to make ath­let­ics the num­ber one sport in schools world­wide. This am­bi­tion, Davies claimed, is “eas­ier for us be­cause in all sports you need to be ‘ath­letic’ – even if the path then leads to other sports even­tu­ally.”

The re­main­der of 2012 will be de­voted to cel­e­brat­ing the IAAF’s first 100 years of ser­vice to the sport. The cel­e­bra­tions are, ac­cord­ing to Davies, al­ready in full swing. He said: “We kicked off with a din­ner that was hosted in Is­tan­bul prior to the World In­door Cham­pi­onships, and this [com­mem­o­ra­tion] will continue to un­fold it­self throughout the year. July 17 is in­deed the an­niver­sary date, and we will be hav­ing a cel­e­bra­tion here in Monaco to­gether with the Prin­ci­pal­ity. The cli­max of our cel­e­bra­tions will come on Novem­ber 25 with the Centenary Gala in Barcelona.”

The fed­er­a­tion will also host an IAAF Din­ner, cel­e­brat­ing its centenary as part of the Olympic Games, in Lon­don on Au­gust 2.

Davies said: “It’s some­thing we can be proud of, not only at the level of the in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tion as it went through the cen­tury but also the glo­ri­ous past achieve­ments that have been those on the track and be­yond.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.