India yet to make formal bid for hosting World Athletics Championships in 2027: AFI Chief

WA president and IOC member, Sebastian Coe told the media that India is crucial for the development of athletics and wants the country to host global events.
FILE - Athletics Federation of India chief Adille Sumariwalla
FILE - Athletics Federation of India chief Adille Sumariwalla

MUMBAI: The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will need a "couple of more days" to decide on making a formal bid for hosting the World Athletics Championships in 2027, said its president Adille Sumariwalla here on Saturday.

While the recent edition of the Worlds was held in Budapest, Hungary, the next championships will be held in Japan in 2025 with India reportedly in the fray to make a formal bid for hosting the event for 2027.

"We have not made a formal bid," Sumariwalla said during an event organised by the AFI and the World Athletics (WA) here.

"We are discussing that internally and in the next couple of days, we will finalise that," Sumariwalla added.

With India also planning to make a formal bid to host the 2036 Olympics, WA president and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, Sebastian Coe, said he would love to see the Games coming to India.

"I would love to see the Olympic Games coming to India," Coe said.

"For very obvious reasons, partly personal and partly familiar reasons but India is an amazing country and I think the development of the games would be fantastic. I think everybody recognises that. But that is for the International Olympic Committee to decide," he said.

Coe told the media here that India is crucial for the development of athletics and wants the country to host global events.

"It is very important that the countries that have the ability, the economics, the political will and the sporting passion to stage events. You would be surprised, as the president of World Athletics, if I did not want to stage one of the events," he said.

"I am not here to sell other sports, I am here to promote athletics and I also want to see India stage as many of our events as possible. This is important for us. You have one of the largest populations in the world and you have a very strong economy," said Coe.

"You have a population whose mean age is 28. There are some extremely popular assets that come together (which) the world sports look at. This is a place that is very important not just personally but for the development of athletics too," Coe said.

In his final stint as the head of World Athletics, a position he has held since 2015, Coe said the next four years until 2027 will be extremely crucial.

"We have four, very, very important years to be looking at. They (coming years) will cement even further the fact that athletics is the No.1 Olympic sport and I am determined to leave that sport in a better shape than it has ever been. That is my entire focus," he said.

Coe backed the IOC governing body's decision to ban the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) for its invasion of Ukraine. World Athletics is believed to have an even tougher stance on Russia.

"I think it was the right decision. It was the only decision left. Our decision at World Athletics is very clear and it has been very clear on a number of issues since 2015 and that is where we sit as well," Coe said.

Coe said the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) had made the environment more conducive for athletes.

"The Athletics Integrity Unit has made a huge difference. Not just in the way that it has made independent (decisions) on (dope) testing, removing the politics from the federation and sometimes even governmental involvement. The athletes now feel they are more in a more confident and secure environment," he said.

"More countries are now working closely with AIU. What has made the difference is that many federations have really understood the AIU is not just there as a policeman, they are here to help with educational programmes and to expand the understanding, not just with the athletes but also with the coaches," he said.

"We want a generation of coaches who fundamentally understand that you can take an athlete from the playground to the podium and do it with integrity and to do it cleanly," Coe said.

Coe said the AIU has made a huge difference in the lives of the athletes.

"Will we ever be in the landscape where we have an entirely drug-free sports world? I am not sure you could probably say that in any element of the human landscape," he said.

"But what I can say is that this (AIU efforts) has made a huge difference, and if you speak to the athletes they know they are in an environment where everybody is being treated in exactly the same way," Coe said.

Coe welcomed innovations in sports but brushed aside the notion that athletes can get an extra advantage.

"We have better protection (protective guards) than we have ever had. We will watch this space very closely, he said.

"But we have to be careful here, because it can be a little bit insulting to the world-class coaches to assume that the only reason their athletes are running as well as they are is because of the shoes on their feet," said the four-time Olympic medal winner.

"I do not think that anybody would be saying that somebody like middle- and long-distance runner Faith Kipyegon, in the season that she has had, is entirely down to the quality of spikes she is wearing. I know the coaches, I know what she does in training," said Coe, citing the example of the Kenyan runner.

Kipyegon is the current world record holder for 1500m and mile, both set in 2023, and the former world record holder in 5000m.

"I see massive developments in the science of coaching and the mentality of coaching. If we have a golden generation of athletes, we also have a golden generation of coaches. Maybe we need to speak a bit more about the quality of coaching that sits behind these performances," he said.

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