World Athletics president Sebastian Coe is looking forward to seeing Tokyo Olympic Stadium packed with fans for the 2025 World Championships, but says the sport will feel the knock-on effects of the Covid pandemic through 2028.
Coe, speaking Sunday in Eugene, Oregon, as the Diamond League finals concluded, said the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until 2021 had created a logjam in the global calendar that challenged athletes and coaches.
“I think people were very naive about the impact that just moving the Olympic games one year was going to have,” Coe said.
“I think they thought this was just sort of pulling a little piece out of the jigsaw and it was suddenly all going to be OK in about a year’s time.
“We will feel the impact of this through to ’28,” he said.
Tokyo beat out competition from Kenya, Poland and Singapore to host the championships in 2025 — four years after the pandemic-delayed Olympics unfolded there in largely empty arenas.
“It’s a lovely moment, because it will be really the first big moment where I think people in Tokyo particularly, and in Japan generally, will see how beautiful the stadium is — but most importantly how beautiful the stadium is with passionate fans in,” Coe said.
To accommodate the Olympic shift, the 2021 World Championships were pushed back to 2022. This year’s World Championships in Budapest were held on schedule and the Paris Olympics are coming up next year before Tokyo hosts worlds.
Coe said there could be some benefits to the congested schedule.
“If you were looking at it from the point of view of marketing and a consumer, then that’s got to be a good thing,” he said. “But I do also know that the athletes have had to be very smart and the coaches have had to be very smart about navigating that.
“But this season has been the best Diamond League season we’ve ever had,” Coe said, noting a number of world records set on the circuit that included two on Sunday, from Armand Duplantis in the pole vault and Gudaf Tsegay in the women’s 5,000m.
“We’ve had our stadiums full,” said Coe, who added that filling the World Championships stadium would be a top priority.
“On big occasions we can’t afford to look marginal,” he said of his determination to ride herd on organizers of big events to make sure their ticket sales figures are solid.
After Budapest “raised the bar” for the World Championships, Coe said, he has “very, very high expectations” for Tokyo.
World Athletics will be looking at potential changes in scheduling and other aspects that could make the event more alluring to audiences.
“It’s not that easy to make some of those changes at World Championship level,” he said. “But there are ways that we can improve on the world championships: The pace of the event, the gap between events, maybe condensing things, trying to get a better balance in terms of broadcast.”