As the sport of athletics awaits its new leader amid a growing buzz of speculation – Seb’s just got the backing of the Athletic Association Small States of Europe, plus Ireland, plus Italy, but what’s this new rumour, Sergey’s got South America?... only one thing is certain, and that is change.
Both men have reiterated the sport’s pressing need to discover and develop new areas of enterprise, new avenues of approach, to draw in what so many ageing sporting administrators now refer to as The Youth (clearly a very influential young man).
In order to secure its long term future in an increasingly competitive sporting environment, athletics needs to think outside the box.
Here in Stockholm on the eve of the last International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meeting before next month's World Championships in Beijing - which will be preceded by that all-important vote for the new President on August 19 – a fellow countryman of Coe’s has offered new details of his own original, outside-the-box project.
All right, it was partly inspired by a Frenchman.
But anyway, while he’s otherwise engaged in the Swedish capital competing in the IAAF Diamond League, Britain’s Olympic, European and Commonwealth long jump champion Greg Rutherford has got the builders in back home. (Which could be described as Milton Keynes, although he prefers to call it Woburn – “a very nice part of the UK” as he describes it.)
As Rutherford goes to his mark in the 1912 Olympic Stadium tomorrow evening, he may have a job preventing his mind from wandering back to Milton Keynes - sorry, Woburn - where the company he has employed to lay a top-notch long jump runway for his already prepared sandpit will be attempting to lay a first and second layer.
“When we moved to our house we had a strip of land alongside that was full of scrub and general rubbish, and I challenged my dad, who is a builder, to see if he could sort it out so we could put a long jump runway in there,” he told the pre-event press conference.
“So he has now levelled it with the help of my neighbour, Barry, and a digger.
“There are actually two runways, although there is only one which has a take-off board. But the pit is wide enough to accommodate them both.
“One of the reasons I wanted to set it up was because I spend a lot of time working in the United States with my coach Dan Pfaff, so when I come back to Europe I want to spend as much time as I can in a stable training base, and if I can have that at home it means I can spend more time with my family - we’ve recently had our first child, he’s nine months old, and I want to see as much of him as I can.”
The suggestion that his twin lanes might spark a new Olympic event - the synchronised long jump - was taken up gamely.
“Yes, we could manage that new event quite happily,” agreed this most amiable of Olympic champions with a wide grin.
“The company I have employed to lay the track will do it to a standard where it can be signed up as a fully certified runway. In order to do the job properly they have to have perfect conditions, which hasn’t been easy in England in the last few weeks. They will be doing a first and second layer, and it will be tested before being certified, hopefully, on August 12.”
Rutherford’s initiative bears clear echoes to an earlier one by the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Renaud Lavillenie, who has set up his own pole vault runway in his back garden at home in Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire.
“I set it up in my back garden about two-and-and-a-half years ago,” Lavillenie told me shortly before he received his award in Monaco. “I climb a tree next to it when I want to adjust the height of the bar. The landing pit is the same as in competition, but the runway is a bit of a downhill, and it’s only 21 metres long.
“I never do any training there - it’s only there for fun, for the fun and enjoyment of the pole vault.”
Rutherford admits that Lavillenie’s efforts inspired him. He might also have added the enterprise of the current female Olympic pole vault champion, Jenn Suhr, who has set up a similar, more training-friendly model in a shed at the back of her house.
Meanwhile, the venerable Stockholm meeting – which has witnessed a record number of 83 athletics-related world records in an arena built for the 1912 Olympics – has been endeavouring to engage with The Youth all week long under its new title sponsors until 2019, Bauhaus.
This evening, as rain fell persistently, and sometimes heavily, on the city, a crowd of around 500, many of whom were Young, watched the first of the Diamond League meeting events, the women’s shot put, take place in the middle of Kungsträdgården square. Germany's Christina Schwanitz had more trouble from her wind-assisted pigtail than she did from a field which included world and Olympic champion and IAAF World Athlete of the Year Valerie Adams, palpably frustrated at being far from her best following her recent return from elbow and shoulder surgery.
Stockholm’s meeting organisers were one of the first to take athletics out of the stadium in 2007, a lead which several other meetings have followed, notably Zurich, and this year they revived a tradition last observed in 2011, which chimes in with all the new thinking around street athletics and bringing the sport to new audiences.
While this was a return to an earlier populism, the meeting - for the first time - is involved in setting up a week of athletics activities in the city, which started in this same squae on Monday with two days of children’s athletics, at which athletes including David Oliver, the world 110 metres hurdles champion, Fabiana Murer, the 2011 world pole vault champion and world indoor 800m champion Ayanleh Souleiman made appearances and signed autographs.
On Friday, after the main meeting, the general public will have the opportunity to race over 1,000m in a fun run at the 1912 Olympic Stadium. And the arena will then host a weekend of international youth competitions.
This meeting, which has awaited its latest world record for 18 years following Wilson Kipketer’s 800m mark of 1min 41.73sec – which equalled the 1981 mark set by, yes, Sebastian Coe – is the world of athletics in microcosm. How to maintain the precious fabric of tradition while engaging with a new young audience - here is the conundrum which Stockholm, and either of the latest IAAF Presidential candidates, must riddle out.