As Seb Coe begins his final four years as World Athletics President he looks back on Budapest 2023 and reveals exciting news of a three-night made-for-TV athletics spectacle in 2026
My competitive experiences of World Championships have been abysmal. I was injured for the first one, injured for the second one and was retired by 1991 in Tokyo. So I didn’t actually compete in a World Championships. But I’m fully making up for these omissions now.
Budapest was a very special World Championships because it was the 40th anniversary of the first one in 1983 in Helsinki and it was also the first one that gave me the opportunity from the outset to decide what it should look like.
I became President of World Athletics in 2015 and it’s inevitable that any incoming President inherits already chosen, existing World Championships. Budapest was the first that I could say was mine.
The No.1 requisite was simple. I didn’t want an empty stadium. It makes our sport look marginal unless we’ve got noisy passionate, knowledgeable fans in the theatre. And that’s what we had. We sold tickets to well over 100 countries. In 1983 there were about 1300 athletes from 150 countries. This year we had almost 2100 from 197 countries. The field was really strong. Everywhere you look, everybody performed at the very highest level.
As President, I have to be balanced and fair, but I’m always going to drift towards middle-distance running and I must say how much I loved the season Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon has had. The first woman to break 3:50 for the 1500m; a week later in the Diamond League in Paris she broke the 5000m world record.
She left Budapest with gold medals from an extraordinarily difficult double, the 1500m and the 5000m. Very few have achieved it. So, for me she is the female performer of the year. As a Laureus Academy Member I will be watching to see if she is nominated for the 2024 Laureus World Sports Awards in the New Year.
In the past we’ve been conservative, we’ve had it in the stadium, often at the end of the evening when most people are actually home or on buses. This time, it was in front of thousands of people in a fan zone. I think it’s highly unlikely we’re ever going to go back to presentations in a stadium.
We also changed the way that we introduce the athletes. They don’t just come out now and find their lane. We showcase it. I think the public needs to be nudged gently about our…