IAAF Senior vice-president Sergey Bubka shared his vision of the future of the institution on the eve of 48th IAAF Congress in Daegu.
Interview for the press office of the Ukrainian Athletics Federation.
On August 27 the Korean city of Daegu will become host of the main event of the athletics’ 2011 season – IAAF World Championships. Not only athletes and their coaches try to finish their preparations by this date. Officials also have their part in this Worlds’ celebration.
There is a tradition for the host city of the IAAF World championship to become also a host of IAAF Congress. The 48th Congress will be held on August 24-25, 2011, at EXCO-Daegu Convention Center.
Legendary athlete from Ukraine, IAAF Senior vice-president Sergey Bubka talked to FLAU press office on what decisions are going to be made by the athletics’ governing body and what innovations are going to be introduced during this meeting.
Sergey, would you please sum up the IAAF’s activity for two years after the 2009 Congress in Berlin?
Athletics remains “number one” sport in the Olympic family – previous two years proved it. 2009 world championship has beaten a lot of records. Number of IAAF web site visitors increased twice and more comparing to Osaka-2007. More than 400 thousands tickets for the magnificent Olympiastadion have been sold. TV audience expanded as well in spite of increase of alternative media. The average of 5 million people watching World championship in Germany, 4 million in Japan, 3,5 million in the USA – these figures impress more that any words.
We also achieved much in marketing. Despite world economic decline IAAF has got a brand new sponsor – SINOPEC. We have agreed a good deal with our new media partner IEC. The important fact is that IEC tries to move athletics’ competition broadcasts to national TV channels instead of niche media. It makes easier for us to approach to our audience.
One of the IAAF’s key important achievements in recent years is the extension of the borders of athletics.
The best example is Samsung Diamond League established in 2010. The series exceeded the borders of Europe without losing the ‘elite’ status of its predecessor – The Golden league. It extended our possibilities. At the end of its second year the market indexes of Samsung Diamond League come close to the ‘old’ global series like PGA or ATP. The success of the League gave us an idea of the great potential of athletics for the future.
Another example is giving right for athletics’ ‘terra incognitas’ to host major championships. IAAF World championships in Daegu, Moscow, Beijing, IAAF Indoor Worlds in Doha and Istanbul, IAAF Youth World Championship for my native city of Donets’k, Ukraine – these are not only new fans of athletics, new venues, new market, new young athletes. By giving right to host world class competitions we give these countries a chance to open themselves for the whole world.
What are the prospects of IAAF for the next years? What are you looking for in the nearest future?
As you know, the elections to the IAAF Council and Committees will take place at the Daegu Congress. New members will enter the IAAF institutions. But I’m sure that our global strategy will not be reshaped.
The positions of the IAAF in the world of sport are very solid now. Our strategy is determined by «IAAF Athletics’ World Plan». It was launched in 2003 spearheaded by IAAF President Mr. Lamine Diack and updated in 2009. This is a long-term strategy which has brought us extraordinary success. The Plan is planned to be updated next year. There is no reason why we should stop it. Vice versa, the IAAF should follow it for the next many years. I believe all the decisions made at the future Congress would develop and accomplish the ‘World Plan’.
We should pay more attention at IAAF programs for involvement kids and youth in athletics. I mean ‘Kids Athletics’ Programme – it was implemented in Ukraine, as you know. President Diack in person patronize this Programme helping to introduce it in primary and secondary schools’ education programs.
The idea is great. We actually know that athletics is a basis of every sport, it a foundation of consistent harmonious growth of a child. We should also be aware of the fact that studying basics of athletics at schools all over the world helps us to involve more kids in sport and gives us a chance to find future stars among them.
What ideas and initiatives could be expected during two days of IAAF Congress at EXCO-Daegu?
I know that most of us, IAAF members have plenty of progressive ideas. For me as a former athlete a chance to share my experience and knowledge is crucial. It’s great that IAAF is always open for discussion and implementation of ideas. The Congress is the best possibility for everyone to deliver the novelties and make our sports better. It is extremely important for athletics not to slow down and rest on its own laurels. We have to move forward, to develop our sport and look for every chance to improve it, to follow our global strategy.
Here is one of the ideas I would like to put forward for the discussion. Let’s think about introducing an international athletics coaches’ database. The point is that any national federation which is eager to cultivate new athletics discipline but has no expert in it could easily find a contact with skilled coach – with the help of IAAF database. The coach could be invited to the respective country or country’s best athletes could come to the training camp.
We have a lot of models of this kind of cooperation. Take for example the training center in Formia, Italy, where my ex-coach, great Vitaly Petrov is working with athletes from all continents. We can already see the results of his activity as pole vaulters from the countries where this discipline has been previously unknown now perform in the finals of major competitions.
Moreover, not only athletes but there coaches could also be invited for training, coaching seminars and workshops. We do it now but my intention is to put this activity on a new level. There are a lot of coaches and ex-athletes who are ready to share their knowledge – Yuri Sedykh and Wilson Kipketer to mention among dozens of them.
When we call athlete “a star” which attracts millions of spectators’ and media attention to athletics, then a coach is a real treasure of our sport. We should esteem coaches who brought to light several generations of star athletes no less than champions and record holders. Their skills are ‘gold reserve’. So it is obvious for me that IAAF needs a database of this reserve to help the national federations to develop athletics in their countries and provide the coaches a chance to share their knowledge with their colleagues from other countries and continents.
Sergey, what about competition part of athletics? Can we expect any innovation in that field as a result of 48th IAAF Congress?
There is a constant competition between the sports in the modern world. They compete for the audience, for media coverage and ratings, for marketing successes. The fact is that athletics is a continual winner of this competition. Why is that? The reason is that the IAAF succeeds in adjusting athletics’ competition program to the calls of time.
The program of the upcoming Daegu World Championships is scheduled to answer the demands of broadcasters. All the finals and semifinals take place in the evening sessions. Moreover, night sessions are limited to 2-3 hours to make the competitions dynamic for stadium spectators and suitable for TV.
There is one more idea to discuss at the IAAF Congress – to recognize the records achieved at the street or square competitions. This kind of contest grows in popularity every year. Recognizing its results as official records – which is easy to arrange in correspondence with all rules and regulations – would give an additional motivation for athletes and make the competitions more attractive for the fans.
Combining classical sport with modern show is what bring us success and helps the IAAF to move forward.
Finally I can’t resist asking you – what do you expect from the competition’s part of the IAAF World Championships?
Tough competition in every discipline and exceptional results! We will see superstars on the tracks and fields of Daegu stadium. These athletes’ names – like Usain Bolt, Blanka Vlasic and many others – are well known all over the world, they are image-makers of our sport and role models for hundreds of thousands of young people. But the essence of our sports is a great number of disciplines. Every discipline has its own stars which compete producing world class results.
I look forward to the performance of our Ukrainian team. The 2011 season demonstrated that Ukrainian athletes have skilled coaches and great potential. As always, I will avoid from prognosis but I hope Ukrainians won’t leave Daegu without medals.