Seb Coe rallies support for Nairobi World Under-18 championships
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe has rallied global support for next year’s 10th World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi which will be the last competition in the age group as the world body launches a major restructuring of the sport.
The championships will be held from July 12 to 16 at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.
Coe defended the decision by the IAAF to end the championships after Nairobi saying it was arrived at after “thorough research and consultation with coaches.”
The Briton, a former Olympic 800 metres champion and world record holder, said research by the IAAF had shown the majority of athletes competing at the world under-18 championships did not progress to the senior level and that the Under-18 competition provided an “unwelcome distraction” to their development.
“The biggest drop-off or fall-out is between 18 years and the senior level,” Coe told Nation Sport.
“Research has proved that some 90 per cent of the junior medallists at these Under-18 championships never make it to the senior team and that coaches don’t want to work with athletes in the 15 to 16 years age group.
“We have instead decided to support area (continental) competitions in this age-group.”
Coe also noted that besides the poor transition, it was also quite expensive to organise such age-group competitions at both IAAF and host federation level.
“Nairobi is working on a big budget for the championships and we saw that most teams did not travel to the last championships in Cali (Colombia) because it was too expensive,” he added.
The IAAF President further argued that handling children of the under-18 age group on the global stage is also delicate for the coaches, guardians and chaperones.
Lord Coe, a former Conservative Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne in England, further said he had rallied other nations to travel to Nairobi for the farewell world championships.
“I have implored federations to send teams to Nairobi,” he said.
Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei appreciated Coe’s support for Kenya saying Great Britain, who had initially indicated they would give Nairobi a wide berth, had now confirmed to him that they would indeed send a contingent to Kenya next July.
“I told them that Kenya would be sending a strong team to the senior IAAF World Championships in London and that they should reciprocate and also send their team to Nairobi and they confirmed that they are indeed sending a team to Kenya,” Tuwei, a retired Lieutenant General and former Kenya Army Commander, said.
Meanwhile, Coe and IAAF’s new Secretary General Olivier Gers have outlined an ambitious programme the world track and field organisation would be undertaking in the next few months as they strive to rise to the top four global sports in terms of mass audience appeal.
Targeting youths through modern technology and new media is key in the IAAF’s growth strategy.
“We also need to move away from elite competitions only to mass events where we have an advantage over other sports.
“You can have mass running but you can’t, for instance, have mass rugby because it would be dangerous….that’s the advantage athletics has over the other top sports that we need to leverage on,” he said.
“The use of social media is also important. At the Rio Olympics, for instance, the best stories of raw emotion were told through snapchat,” he said referring to the image messaging and multimedia mobile application.
Meanwhile, the IAAF officials said they are happy with the progress made by both Nairobi and Kampala, the latter being hosts of the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March.
IAAF’s media delegate Olaf Brockman and deputy director of communications Anna Legnani are expected to visit Nairobi next month to assess progress made in preparations of media facilities.