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Coe promises post-mortem into empty seats

2016-08-20 03:04
Sebastian Coe (Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro - Track and field performances at the Rio Games are guaranteeing one of the best Olympics ever, IAAF president Sebastian Coe said on Friday, admitting however that there would be a post-mortem into the swathes of empty seats for some sessions at the stadium.

Action has been fast and furious at the Olympic Stadium, but it has often been carried out in front of sometimes paltry crowds, a far cry from the London Games four years ago when every session was a sell-out.

"If you look at it from a purely performance level this is arguably one of the best Games ever," Coe said in an interview.

"To be sitting there with a couple of days still to go with three world records, five or six Olympic records, the same for area records and in excess of 80 national records, the guys are punching their weight and more."

But Coe added that the location of the Olympic Stadium allied with prohibitively expensive tickets, a lack of a local athletics culture and broadcasting demands that have seen finals in the morning sessions and late-finishing evening sessions led to difficulties.

"There are other challenges. The stadium is not the easiest to get to," he said.

"There is a complicated matrix of judgements that were made about doing more events in the morning.

"You do try to work and help organising committees, because every Games is different because you have local practices and viewing patterns, you have to adapt to some of that."

Coe stressed, however, that there had indeed been full houses and that athletics still brought in many more spectators than other Olympic sports.

"Let's put this slightly into perspective. In the first two days we had more people through our stadium than 18 sports did in 250 sessions," he maintained.

"It has not been easy, but these stadiums have not lacked passion at the big moments, and at the big moments we've tended to have big crowds."

Turning to passion that boiled over when the partisan Brazilian crowd jeered France's reigning Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie when he was locked in a duel with eventual winner Thiago Braz Da Silva of Brazil and then again on the podium, Coe said it was a matter of showing respect.

"I went to see Renaud afterwards and I made it very clear I was uncomfortable about that," he said, with Lavillenie having broken down in tears at the whistling aimed at him.

"Wherever you come from, whatever you believe, whatever your culture, political, religious background is deserving of respect."

Coe named the world record 400m run by South African Wayde van Niekerk and Kenyan David Rudisha's 800m defence as his two highlights.

"It's a high-class problem!" he replied when asked to name his picks.

"You don't have to say much more when you have Michael Johnson's world record getting broken, I thought Van Niekerk's performance was off the planet.

"And David Rudisha, he just did what you really have to do in a race that's run like that, he took them into the killing zone and left them there, between 5-600 metres."

Unfortunately, the stadium was at best half-full to watch the majestic Rudisha claim his second Olympic gold.

"I would have liked more there," Coe conceded.

"We have to be realistic. It's a stadium out the way. We were trying to help local broadcasters and the IOC."

Coe added: "I don't want to be cavalier about this. Most people who've been observing our sport in the last 10 days have been blown away by the performances.

"The feedback we're getting about these championships is remarkably high.

"But there are things I'll want to address going forward to make sure that this does not become the norm. But we also have to be realistic that London was not the norm either."

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