Sebastian Coe on the great Games

Sebastian Coe is used to early starts and punishing regimes – after all he spent most of his early adult life pounding the streets as he honed his fitness to challenge for Olympic titles.

Now, as chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, it seems that little has changed in the way of the demands of life.

'I am normally out of bed by 5.15am most mornings and in the office or doing something of a 2012 nature by 8am,' Coe said in an interview. 'It's not unusual for me to leave the office at 7.30pm and there is often a dinner afterwards – for example tonight I am with the IOC Press Commission.''

A punishing regime it may be but Coe insists it is one he relishes – and a stroll in the park compared to his days as an athlete.

'It's a fabulous job to be doing,'' he added. 'I wake up every morning looking forward to what the day brings.


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'Track and field is hard graft and you just have to grind it out.

'This is much more enjoyable and there are days of sheer pleasure. The variation of the days is so fantastic. This week I have been in Newcastle one day with the nations and regions programme then meeting the Jamaican national Olympic committee in my office the next.''

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The sheer scale of the Olympic project is frightening. Coe describes it as being like staging the world championships of 26 different sports in the same city simultaneously. There are a vast number of decisions that have to be made about the running of the Games.

The other side of Coe's job could seem to an outsider to be somewhat repetitive: dignitaries, sponsors and visitors have to be entertained and shown London's preparations; schoolchildren have to be inspired; the regions outside of London have to be persuaded they are part of the Games. Coe insists though that he draws huge satisfaction from those tasks.

'I feel real pride at the extraordinary progress we have made on the Olympic Park. You cannot fail to feel proud when you are showing around politicians, schools, sponsors and other people around the park.

'I am also pretty proud that a year out from the Games we have raised effectively �2billion in what most people agree to be the toughest economic conditions for hosting an Olympics since 1976.''

That is in reference to London's extraordinary success in attracting sponsors and selling tickets. Due to luck or good planning, or probably both, the major sponsorship deals were tied up before the economic crisis struck. There has been nothing fortunate about the rush for tickets however: the British public's love for sport has accounted for that.

Yet London 2012's success in selling tickets has also created their biggest headache in public relations terms: how to deal with the bad feeling generated by fact that the majority of those who originally applied for tickets have been left empty-handed.

Coe has talked about tickets until he is blue in the face but remains convinced there was no fairer system that could possibly have worked. He argues that critics of the ticket sales system have failed to offer any meaningful alternatives: 'When I put it to the journalists we have sensible conversation about the level of disappointement – but when we talk about how the process could have been done any better they shuffle off.''

The view in the media is that London have had an easy ride in terms of scrutiny, and while Coe is unsure about that he does concede there was plenty of concern among the conservative members of the International Olympic Committee that the bullish British press would go all out to tear holes in the project.

'I don't know whether I have had an easy ride,'' said Coe.

'There was a genuine concern when we were bidding that the British media's forensic nature would be a bit off-putting.

'We have a very good working relationship and it is important that the media do hold us to account.''

Perhaps London have created the easy ride for themselves by hitting those deadlines and keeping to those budgets. A sign, surely, that they have employed the right people, such as Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the organising committee who left a much better paid job at Goldman Sachs to pursue his own Olympic dream.

Dave Higgins too, the Australian who was knighted last month for his role as head of the Olympic Delivery Authority that has built all the Games venues, was a brilliant appointment. 'We were were absolutely determined to build a world-class team and that's what they are,'' said Coe.'

The one cloud on the horizon concerns the future of the Olympic Stadium. Coe would like nothing better than to see the world athletics championships coming to Britain for the first time ever but Tottenham's legal action for a judicial review of the decision to award the stadium to West Ham after the Games is threatening London's bid for the 2017 event. 'The 2017 world athletics championships would be an extraordinary legacy for the stadium and for London,'' said Coe. 'We have to grab this with both hands.''

It will be though just another task for Coe to fit in on the 12-month road to London 2012.

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