“No athlete would prefer to compete without spectators”, World Athletics boss Sebastian Coe said on Friday but left it on organisers to decide whether to let in fans or keep them out when the sport resumes in August.
The WA on Tuesday announced the commencement of Diamond League one-day meetings from August 14 in Monaco, pushed from the original May start in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It earlier froze Olympic qualifying period till the end of November due to the health crisis. “No athlete would prefer to compete without spectators. They will want to compete in front of fans in stadia.
But some cities may just bring the athletes and do not want to have large crowds. We have to respect both (organisers and athletes),” Coe said in a video conference with select Indian journalists. He said the organisers of the prestigious 12-legged Diamond League meetings will decide the number of events and safety guidelines to be followed according to the local conditions.
Coe said WA is not going to issue a Standard Operating Procedure for the Diamond League meet organisers. “We have left it to them to how best manage and provide safety of the athletes and spectators in the best possible way they can under local situations. Of course, we will seek the best practices and keep in touch with the event directors,” he said. “The organisers of each meeting will decide on the number of events, which event will be held and which one to be excluded two months before the event. I will not speculate which events will be there in the Diamond League and Continental Tour events,” he said.
The 63-year-old Coe, a double Olympics 1500m champions (1980 and 1984), is hoping that things will get clearer by next month. “We are hoping that things will start opening up in June and we will see as they evolve. The event directors will identify what is the best safety measures two months before any competition so that the athletes are not in any doubt whatsoever. Our guiding principle is the safety of the athletes.” He also said the sport will not be the same for the next few months at least. “We think we can find a way (to hold events) and track and field may not be identical as traditional one in the next few months but we are confident we will see through this crisis,” he said without getting into the specifics.
“We are hoping to give all the athletes equal competition opportunities by the end of this year and then go for the Olympics next year.” On the issue of reduction in the number of dope tests due to lockdowns in many countries, he said, “There are challenges but this is not a dope test free zone.” “Before the pandemic, the AIU was picking up samples from more than 100 countries but the number of tests is currently not what it was used to be earlier. But there is another dimension in this, that is intelligent testing and intelligence-led testing.” He also said that the Biological Passport of the athletes has been an important tool to detect doping. Coe also welcomed the use of technology in the current difficult times to bring fans closer to the athletes and build an emotional connect.
Coe hinted the new normal in athletics may even see 100m, relays and throws on the optional list of competition managers.
On a video chat from London with a select group of Indian journalists, Coe said it will not look like the traditional track and field meetings for a few months. “But I think we can give some action (to the athletes) so that they can come out into the next season with some competitions behind them,” Coe said.
The WA chief said the first few competitions may have to be held behind closed doors as it is important for athletes to get back into competition.
Asked about ensuring the safety of athletes in events like relays and throws, Coe said the WA working group headed by Stephane Bermon, director, health and science department is trying to find a way out.