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Page last updated at 13:36 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 14:36 UK
Revamp athletics in schools, says Coe

Athletics is struggling to inspire children to get involved

By Adrian Warner in Berlin
BBC London's Olympics correspondent

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe has called for major changes to the presentation of athletics in a bid to attract more youngsters to the sport.

Television audiences for the world championships have fallen dramatically in the last eight years.

In an interview with BBC London, the former double Olympic champion said the sport needed to be easier to understand and proposed giving spectators special "radio links" to explain the action.

We really must invigorate athletics in schools. It is not big enough in schools in the UK and around the world.
Lord Coe

"We are finding it tougher to promote the sport," Coe said. "I think it is better to have shorter major championships. It is hard to maintain championships over two weekends.

"Without damaging the aspirations of the athletes, there are ways of getting a tighter flow of events that are more palatable for younger tastes."

The world championships, starting in Berlin on Saturday, will run for nine days.

German organisers have been struggling to sell all of the tickets and TV audiences in the key market of Europe have dropped by 43 per cent since 2001.

Coe, a vice president of the IAAF - the governing body of athletics - said there would be changes before the 2011 championships in South Korea.


He wants to introduce the same kind of personal radio headsets which are used in rugby grounds to link fans with the referee.

Lord Coe
Lord Coe with 15-year-old diver Tom Daley

"It is about explaining things with commentary. I think it would also work with a jury of appeal where spectators could follow a ruling on a disqualification.

"When a rugby referee explains something to the players and 70,000 people at the same time, it has only added to the sport, not damaged it."

There is nothing to stop the athletics programme for the 2012 Games being shortened as well. Although 2012 officials have published a provisional schedule of all sports, the final version has to be ratified by the International Olympic Committee closer to the games.

Coe said he was also worried about the way athletics was taught in schools.

"We really must invigorate athletics in schools. It is not big enough in schools in the UK and around the world.

"It is still a strong vibrant sport but we have not quite got to grips with the fact that life for young people has changed," he said.

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